Well, this sucks: Huntington Beach vintage store Denim Blue: The Vintage Victim is closing for good this Sunday. The good news, though, is that it's getting a proper send-off, with an in-store event Saturday night featuring one of the most impressive rosters of local talent recently assembled.
“You have that hope, 'it'll get better, it'll get better,' but it's just not going to happen, at least for the time being,” says store owner Billy Kernkamp. “You just have to let go and realize that there is something beyond this. I think that's the hardest thing. Not just money, there's emotions tied into this.”
Kernkamp has owned the store–which sells used jeans, shirts (graphic tees and western), boots, sunglasses and a few used records–since January 2004, and it's been at its current location on Beach Boulevard since October of that year. Kernkamp says though business was “bangin'” from 2004 to 2007, the current economic recession has been such that he's considered closing up shop for the last six months.
“When eVocal went down, I was thinking about it too,” he says, referring to the westside Costa Mesa shop/gallery/all-ages music venue that closed in early July. “It was so disheartening. Another man down, who understood the time and energy it takes to keep something going.”
Since this past December, the store's hosted monthly nighttime art and music events, bringing together local bands for acoustic performances and exhibits from visual artists amidst the store's sea of denim. Kernkamp's also a singer/songwriter (we wrote a bit about his August residency at the Gypsy Lounge here), and plans to be back to focusing on music full-time after the store shutters.
“I'm starting to record my record next month, it just kind of almost worked perfectly,” he says. “After being in a band, I said, 'fuck, if I can handle this, I could run a business.' It's funny that this is coming to an end and I just can't wait to be in a band again.”
Saturday's event features performances from a staggering number of local favorites; Parker Macy, Barrett Johnson, Johnny Bell (Crystal Antlers), Ryan Daly (Parade of Lights and Hellogoodbye), Josh Hanson (Yellow Red Sparks), John Hanson (Melanoid), Justin Suitor (Railroad to Alaska), Trisha Smith (Honeypie), Kyle Deven (We Are the Pilots) and Kernkamp himself, among others.
“We're all going to do one or two songs that nobody thinks we would like,” Kernkamp says. “I'm going to do Shania Twain and Lemonheads.
“It's nice to see that the store has meant something to people,” he says of the positive response to the event. “That's how I've always seen it too; something more than just a place to get clothes. It's always been a hangout.”
Though obviously disappointed over the closing, the good-natured Kernkamp is remaining characteristically optimistic about the future.
“Part of me just wants to be sucking my thumb in a puddle of urine in the back room,” he says. “I just think of my old man, and other guys that have worked their asses off. People losing their home, people losing everything they've invested in. I'm thinking, 'Dude, this is not that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things.'”
Vintage Victim is located on 18320 Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach. Saturday's event begins at 7 p.m.