Gentlemen* of Orange County, 2200 square feet of absolute awesomeness awaits you, just two blocks west of the Orange Circle, in the form of Moonlight Graham's flagship store.
I first heard of Moonlight Graham several years ago, by way of a Bill Simmons column. At the time, they were a top-of-the-line licensed apparel collection, with licenses from MLB, NBA, NCAA, GM, The Beatles, etc. Being a fan of Moonlight Graham's mid-century vintage design aesthetic and a huge baseball geek, I rushed to their web store to gobble up as many vintage baseball tees as I could afford. Unfortunately, due to some poor decisions made by investors, the company closed up shop in 2006. The good news is that after a five-year hiatus, Moonlight Graham is back.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to wander the store a bit, peruse its goods, and chat with the company's owner, Bart Silberman, and Operations Manager Matt Lovenduski. I walked away from the experience buzzing with excitement; not only because Moonlight Graham is back and better than ever (and just minutes from my house, no less), but because the people behind the brand have a genuine and undeniable passion for quality vintage menswear, great music, baseball, and graphic design. Obviously, I've been a fan of the brand for a while, but to find out that its being run by people I could easily see myself geeking out about baseball, clothing, and music over a beer together was a bonus.
So for this week's 3hree Things, I thought I'd take a closer look at what the new Moonlight Graham is all about and what the future has to offer for one of Orange County's newest (and in my humble opinion) coolest retail stores.
1) The Goods
If I were to tell you that you could walk into a single store, and buy a high-quality Levis vintage woven shirt, selvedge denim, RedWing Heritage boots, a straight razor and grooming products, a vintage Angels tee, and a Fugazi record on vinyl, it probably wouldn't make much sense. But when you walk into MG, it just does. You have to see it to believe it. It's a beautiful building, built in 1926, and renovated to recapture some of the character of that era. For a guy like me, who loves music, baseball, and comfortable clothing, it's heaven in the form of a retail store.
The new MG is built around classic American brands that are made in the USA. While they're a little more pricey than you might be comfortable with, you're paying for value. It took me a while to "get it," but paying a couple hundred bucks for a pair of boots, jeans, or a couple woven shirts that'll last you a lifetime and age with character makes a lot more sense than buying a cheaper version that'll fall apart every six months. And now, instead of having to schlep to LA, or mail order and pay exorbitant shipping costs for these quality garments, you can get them at a retail shop located right in the heart of Orange County.
2) The Music
As Bart told me the story of how Moonlight Records got started, I got the chills. It started with the random idea that it might be fun to have a show in the shop after hours. Right then and there, they sent an email to legendary punk band, X (Bart's favorite band of all-time), and a week later they they found themselves at lunch with Exene Cervenka, an offer to re-issue Auntie Christ, a show (which became a series of shows) on the horizon, and the pipe dream of starting a record label coming to fruition.
Since then, the connection with Exene has led to shows at the shop featuring John Doe, Phil Alvin (The Blasters), and Pat Smear (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Germs, etc.); a book reading by TSOL frontman, Jack Grisham; shows on the horizon with Zander Schloss (Circle Jerks, Joe Strummer) and Sean Wheeler (Throw Rag), exclusive X merchandise, and Moonlight Records becoming a fully functional, all-in-one record label that handles e-commerce, merchandise, and artist web sites to boot. And they're building it around '70s and '80s era locally-grown punk and roots rock. Not too shabby, if you ask me. And it all stemmed from a random idea and a single email (hence the chills I wrote of earlier.)
3) The Future
In late May MG opened their Vacation Trailer--a scaled-down version of the flagship store--at The Lab in Costa Mesa. And they're looking to make a similar move by adding a trailer in Culver City in the next month or so. Using the Orange flagship store as a template, they're also looking to branch out and open stores in Chicago and New York City.
Here in Orange, they're expanding the shop to the lot next door to accommodate their growing record label, adding a design studio for Moonlight Graham artists, expanding their storage space for their online store and exclusive band merchandise, and will continue putting on shows (Exene's Hootenanny) featuring some of OC and LA's best punk, roots, gospel, and americana artists of the past few decades. The next of which is an August 6th show featuring the aforementioned Wheeler and Schloss.
Honestly, I would have been really excited if I had found out that only their baseball gear and vintage tees were making a comeback, but now, with the shows, the record label, the quality vintage garments, footwear and grooming products, it makes it almost too good to be true. And it's all happening in our backyard. (Oh, and did I mention that they have a employees-only batting cage in the shop's warehouse? I think I need to polish up my resumé.)
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If you haven't stopped by the shop to check it out, I'd advise that you stop blowing it, and get over there as soon as possible. It's well worth it. You have my 100 percent guarantee. And for you out-of-towners, there's an online shop that you can check out here.
*Also: Women who'd love to make their man awfully happy by doing a little gift shopping.
Moonlight Graham's Flagship Store is located at 401 W. Chapman Orange, CA 92866
Moonlight Graham's Vacation Trailer @ The Lab is located at 2930 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626