Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Your Trash My Treasure, 'Girls of the Truck'

Both Jessika Gamez and Kelsey Rubenstein were born to dig--They're not gravediggers, gold diggers, nor crate diggers, but scour swap meets, estate sales, and garage sales in search of vintage clothing. "The art to finding the rad authentic pieces is patience and passion. You have to really look through every rack and every pile to find the goods," said Jessika. 

 As I made the five-minute drive from my house to Kelsey's Valleyheart home, I met the two amateur entrepreneurs at the side gate and eventually finagled my way through a window into her room.   I came upon 7-10 boxes stuffed to the top with vintage novelty t-shirts, sports t-shirts, starter jackets, and sweaters.  So as I perused through their stuff, I remembered a store right off of Wilshire in Westwood that sold 80s vintage sports t-shirts for cheap.  "Everything in the store is only $3.99," I chimed in optimistically.  Kelsey shot me a glance like I had just insulted her mother.  "That's too expensive" she said, hastily dismissing my remark.  Jessica nodded in agreement.  Most of their stuff they get for free, and prefer anything below a dollar.  

And you're wondering why this is interesting... It's not because they simply have a large inventory of vintage clothing and pay very little for what they get, but it's the mode in which they plan to market their products and attract customers.  Instead of relying on a conventional retail business paradigm to sell their items, Jessika and Kelsey have leaned towards a grassroots movement.  And their DIY business attitude revolves around a dinged up 4x4 truck.  The intention is to travel around to different spots of the LA scene and sell directly from their truck, similar to the mobile 'roach coach' just instead of vending soggy tacos it's primarily vintage sports gear.   Why sports? "Oh my," said Jessika. "We love sports, all sports, no discrimination here--Lakers, Dodgers, Kings. I'll go all out and even see the Galaxy.  To us sports are a great way to support your city."

 Jessika asserts that the idea was prompted from her love of sports and, strangely enough, ice-cream trucks: " About two years ago back in high school when my mind was on anything else but school, I used to be on the whole street wear tip.  And at the time it was still a low-key thing.  One day I had left school to go downtown to my favorite thrift store St. Vincent and went over to the LA River and there were a lot of ice cream trucks on 7th and Santa Fe.  And the wheels started turning and that was the start of the endeavor.  But soon enough I got over the whole street wear scene and decided it would be an even more awesome idea selling what I love: old sportswear and other finds from thrift stores or yard sales."

 Although this sounds creatively ambitious, Jessika and Kelsey are slowly but methodically making arrangements to put their gig in full motion.  Specializing in old sportswear (starter jackets, t-shirts, sweatshirts, snap-back caps), they will also pick up any used items that they find, ranging from dresses, shoes, bags, coats, etc.  "For now, it is only used, vintage things because they just have more character and Kelsey and I both absolutely love thrift stores.  They're just wonderful and so nostalgic, and most of the time the people are really cool and tell you neat stories about what you're going to buy."  There is no primary source where they find their product, and their spectrum of resources ranges from donations to thrift stores, garage sales, rummage sales, and estate sales. They're also willing to barter and exchange clothes, but do try to get to the 1 dollar sale every Sunday at Jetrag.

Plus the retail license is already taken care of: "It was actually not difficult at all to obtain the licenses except the woman on the when I applied for the federal tax ID was a little rude but she was an IRS employee so what do you expect.  We're going to start out with Kelsey's Jeep and hopefully we can paint it.  But as soon as we save up enough money and build up a clientele we are definitely going to actually get the ice cream truck, but for now the Jeep is our main mode for transportation.  We intend on going all over Los Angeles to start to build a name for ourselves, namely art galleries, local events, shows, street corners, you name it." They plan to primarily hit up the more bohemian districts of East Hollywood, Silverlake, and Echopark districts.

Your Trash, My Treasure, a blog brought to you by "the girls of the truck" chronicles their most recent findings with updates of their purchases and Polaroid pictures.  The blog was created as a way to advertise their business and spread the word.  Said Jessika, "It's mainly to build up hype for our project and to get people pumped on it.  We want the blog to grab people's attention and for them to think, 'hey, I have a whole bunch of tings I don't need anymore, let me call up Kelsey and Jessika' or 'man that stuff is awesome can we buy something from you?' " Not only is the blog a gateway to market their own products, but also becomes a conduit to help promote other friends while helping their own cause. In this way, an interconnected relationship forms based on the simple idea of reciprocity:  "Another thing we're trying to do with the blog is, let's say, one of our friends has an art event or a show coming up.  We can arrange to set up near the event and have our friends promote us by word of mouth while we post their flyer on our blog and invite everyone to come."  

So what happens next? "Now we're still just trying to stack up some more inventory and since we don’t have the ends to purchase the truck quite yet we are just going to map out a few places to set up and pretty much be a mobile yard sale. The next move for us is to try and apply for a small business grant so we can really get things rolling."