By Rich Kane
By Joel Beers
By LP Hastings
By Dave Barton
By Patrice Wirth Marsters
By Erin DeWitt
By Taylor Hamby
By LP Hastings
For any man who has declared he hates to shop, chances are he's never stepped into Moonlight Graham.
Inside the garage-like oasis in Old Towne Orange, there's something around every corner that incites a testosterone-fueled whooooa—an Ascot sprint car straight from the original speedway, a retro pinball machine, 1980s skate decks, a batting cage in the backroom and vintage baseball memorabilia galore.
"It's like a clubhouse for guys," says owner Bart Silberman. "We wanted to focus on the things guys are into: surfing, cars, girls, sports."
The store—which sells classic American heritage apparel, coffee-table books, vinyl records and men's grooming products—is a resurrection of the baseball-inspired Moonlight Graham clothing brand Silberman ran from 2001 to 2006. (Its name is a nod to Burt Lancaster's character in Field of Dreams—to this day, people sometimes poke their heads through the door and yell, "If you build it, they will come!") For the 44-year-old Orange resident, who thought he saw the end of the Moonlight brand when its new owners drove the business into the ground in 2007, it wasn't until he stumbled upon an old building for sale on West Chapman Avenue that he knew his work wasn't done.
"That's what galvanized it for me," Silberman says of the structure, which housed a Ford dealership back in 1923. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, this is how we could bring the brand back."
Opened in early 2011, the shop is stocked with classic, USA-made brands, ones Silberman felt were underrepresented in Orange County, including Red Wing Heritage, Pendleton, Reyn Spooner, Levi's Vintage Collection ("The coolest denim line on Earth," Silberman attests), along with the revived Moonlight Graham collection. Silberman says he wanted to choose high-quality pieces—vintage woven shirts, selvedge denim, leather workboots—that suit "real men," not fashion models or the dudes on MTV.
"I felt the OC marketplace was veering toward this Ed Hardy, Affliction-y sort of thing, and here I am going to Little League games and school meetings, thinking, 'These guys aren't wearing that stuff,'" he says. The guys he knew wanted something different but wouldn't be bothered to drive to LA to find it.
Once a month, the store is home to the Moonlight Graham Hootenanny, a music showcase hosted by punk goddess (and Weekly advice columnist) Exene Cervenka, lead singer/songwriter of X. The company has also started its own record label, Moonlight Graham Records, which is releasing the debut album of Jack Grisham's new band, the Manic Low, on June 16.
Moonlight Graham is basically a badass shrine to all the things Silberman thinks are awesome. He built it, and they have come.
This column appeared in print as "A Man Cave's Man Cave."