Currently Reading: Tacoma of the Times

ETC is leading a new generation of townfolk to high style and reviving a historic part of Pacific Ave in the process.


The small illustration is applied to the sidewalk concrete using white-out pen. Street artist “Shuck Face” placed it in front of ETC Tacoma’s mixed-use retail/gallery space shortly after they opened the doors.

“The Shuck Face was big for us,” Co-founder Umi Wagoner explains. “That means something in Tacoma.”

ETC’s presence in this part of historic downtown does as well.

The minimalist design and curated shelves are not what people expect with street wear. Pop-up events and art hangings are even more unexpected in this part of town. Assorted dry goods from Umi’s Los Angeles residency are presented alongside the “Etcetera” branded products created in-house with Co-founder Perris Wright crafting the graphics and identities.

PDA took notice of the ETC shop and brand because of the clever flips using pop culture references, a process we employ with our visual design frequently. Wagoner and Wright are social media leaders pushing an agenda that Tacoma is a good place to live, work and even culturally consume. Their following hears that. Tacoma pride isn’t a curse word anymore.

“In Tacoma we spend a lot of time together liking our wounds,” Wagoner points out. “There’s a sense that people have gone through some things together. Now the government is behind us in Tacoma. We’re of the times. There wasn’t Tacoma pride here, unless you we’re really old and had been through it all. Now with the Port being built up, this historic area is doin’ it. There wasn’t a business on this block that didn’t give us a card, or welcome us personally. From the flower shop to the corner store.”

Shirts

 

It has a lot to do with the corners they refuse to cut. Details are magnified with ETC, from full embroidery on beanies to oversized screenprint hits on gym bags. Expensive production makes for a lasting impression.

“It’s our third brand we worked on together, so we’ve climbed the same hills,” Wagoner says of his partnership with Perris. “Ours is just a good brand. Tacoma Apparel Co. does just Tacoma for instance. That’s what they do. We take some pop culture references, pull them from the past. There’s plenty out there in the Town we’re just getting to finding out about it now.”

Tourists are finding Tacoma in larger numbers as well, and access to recreational marijuana is playing a part in that. Prices have dropped, inventory is consistent and lines are shorter in Pierce County.

“A bunch of my homies are here from Cali just to smoke weed. Nothing else,” Wagoner mentions. “The tourists are catching on to here.”

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ETC Tacoma is a friendly spot for the medicated minds in the neighborhood. Challenges on the Nintendo64 gaming system are an everyday activity. Mario Kart is the most popular game but 007 on the multi-tap and Galactica are popular cartiridges as well. There’s a small piece of astroturf covering a swelling in the wood floor. They call it their golf pitching mound. The conversation is continuous as customers come and go. At the moment it centers around how Siri on iPhone doesn’t understand black people’s manner of speech, and neither does XBox voice recognition.

Meanwhile Perris Wright lingers outside taking candid photos for Instagram, he speaks with his actions more often than not. An elderly caucasian gentleman rides by the shop on a skateboard (which isn’t all that unusual on Pacific Ave). His roll slows. He’s captivated by the fluorescent Jordan 6s being modeled for Wright’s camera.

“That’s some ass rockin’ style right there,” he says.

Tacoma is a trip in more ways than one.


 

 

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