[Exene Says . . .] DIY Till I Die
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk-rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. Contact her via email@example.com.
In 1976, Nancy Kaufman lent a friend money to rent a 125-square-foot store on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Second Street in Santa Monica. The friend wanted to open a frozen-yogurt shop, but unfortunately for him, the building had no plumbing. He bailed, and since Kaufman now had a two-month lease on a space, she decided to open a clothing store. She named it Na Na.
At night, she worked at the Cinerama Dome. During the day, she made clothes to sell. Soon after, Na Na moved to Broadway, between Ocean and Second, after effectively taking over the whole block. It was the place where rockabillies, punks, mods, rude boys and New Wavers went to congregate. She sold Amish trousers, long underwear (in red, of course), Manic Panic hair dye and Mary Quant stockings from England.
After a long, successful run--including the addition of several shops in Hollywood, San Francisco and New York--Kaufman closed the Na Nas in 2001. Soon after, she opened her current cool shop, Brat Store, on 14th and Pico in Santa Monica. While such brick-and-mortar stores continue to disappear rapidly, it's natural to wonder if a scrappy entrepreneur such as Kaufman can ever follow the same route in today's world ruled by Amazon and iTunes.
If you aspire to start your own record store, hair salon, vintage store or punk-rock supply depot, I have great news: The odds are against you. So just go for it! What have you got to lose?
If an opportunity falls into your lap, grab it and run with it. A great store is always a place where the community congregates, and for many outcasts and underground bands in LA and OC, Na Na was exactly that. It was a really important component of the scene. Sometimes, that responsibility falls on a store owner; create a scene in a neighborhood that has none. You don't have to get a space in the trendy or expensive areas. Most great clubs and stores begin in places that are considered poor, run-down, etc. But those are the most interesting and alive places!
True to form, Brat is still a fountain of information on bands, clothes, art, events and people. Kaufman promotes shows, helps new bands, designs clothes, works a million hours a week, and is as excited and grateful as ever to be part of something meaningful.
Also: Connect with other stores and indie businesses. Why compete when you can help each other be stronger and more successful? Have a strong store identity. Let your freak flag fly!
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