We have been talking about 826LA for some time now, especially since our special collaboration of wallets we did with young authors of 826LA and top notch artists of Los Angeles. 826LA is a non-profit writing workshop and tutoring center for youth ages 6-18. That is the heart of the organization, but, it’s partly fueled by the storefront, The Echo Park Time Travel Mart. We stopped in to say hi and get some more info about their amazing store and all the goodies they sell.
Hi Christina! You are the store manager over at 826LA’s Time Travel Mart. Tell us a bit about what you do there.
Hi! As the manager of the Echo Park Time Travel Mart it’s my job to make sure we are stocked with great merchandise from the past and the future and for folks coming from the past or future looking to blend in LA, 2008. I am also in charge of events, so I organize in-store events like Dead Author Readings and fundraisers like the 826LA Echo Park Paddle Boat Regatta.
What is the ideas behind the Time Travel Mart? Why did you guys choose that theme?
LA is such a car culture and travel marts are ubiquitous, so, it was a natural conclusion… The Echo Park Time Travel Mart is a leader in convenience retailing and sells everything you need before you take a road trip through the fourth dimension. Literally behind the Time Travel Mart is 826LA a non-profit writing and tutoring center for kids 6-18.
What would one find at the Time Travel Mart? Tell us about some of the products that you have at the Time Travel Mart. What are some of your favorites, what are some best sellers and why do you think people love them?
You can grab time-machine fuel, a can of mastodon meat, and a souvenir t-shirt in one quick stop. We have some great interactive components; a community bulletin board with postings from all eras, a time travel office where you can get your “pastport” picture taken and a “SPECIALTIES” window that peeks into the tutoring lab. My favorites are robot milk, chauffeur wax and I am obsessed with one of our new fragrances called Studio 54. Our best seller is definitely viking odorant. I think in this economy – even if all the proceeds go directly to 826LA programming – it is easier for people to spend their money on something useful. I try to make sure that we always have a good assortment of useful products in addition to the novelty items, toys and books.
826LA also has a Venice location. The new, second location in Echo Park is amongst some really great places…. The Echo, Downbeat Cafe, El Prado Bar, and soon to be open Stories book shop and Out of the Closet store. How do you like being in Echo Park, tell us about the energy, the kids, the people discovering The Time Travel Mart for the first time. Any funny anecdotes for people coming into 826 and wondering what is going on??
Echo Park is an amazing neighborhood with a rich history. It’s a great blend of families and young singles. I often run into the kids (from after-school) with their families when I am running errands on Sunset Blvd. It really is a community in every sense of the word. It’s exciting to be a part of the energy that permeates everything around here these days. We get a lot of inquisitive folks when it comes to the Time Travel Mart. We get asked a lot if it’s an art installation or if the stuff is actually for sale. We are happy to say that we are here to stay and it’s all for sale! – except for the tutoring, that’s free.
You guys have an amazingly crazy storefront, window display with a caveman and robot shaking hands. It looks so great and very lifelike. Tell us a bit about that. How you came up with the design and executed such craziness.
We were very fortunate that Bad Robot (JJ Abrams Production company) offered to do our window display. When we told them that it was our dream to have a museum like diorama with a caveman a robot shaking hands to commemorate the historic peace treaty between cavemen and robots, they obliged. The installation is a collective effort, the Caveman and Robot were designed at Bad Robot and built by the prop builder who does Star Trek. The rest was installed by me and Amy Martin.
The support from the community is amazing. What other fun things do you have coming up that has not yet been realized? We’re always on the look out for new product and new collaborations.
I am very excited about our next collaboration because it’s also a fundraiser. We asked Amy Martin (Amy designed our popular Time Travel Posters) to design a letter press holiday card and then we found Christine from Flora and Fauna Press to print it. The cards will sell in pack of 5 for $15.99, but you can also buy them individually as holiday donation cards. So, you specify the amount and give us the information and we will send the card to the recipient with something along the lines of “a donation has been made in your name to 826LA for $____. After that, it’s a line of clocks designed by David Byrne, Spike Jonze and Tucker Nichols! And 2009 brings us the launch of a monthly 826LA curated variety show called Tiny Vaudeville!
Wow, that sounds so exciting!! Does the Time Travel Mart help fund the afterschool tutoring and workshops for youth that happen at 826LA? How important is the store to your organization?
The store is very important in that it sets a tone. The kids pass through this amazingly creative space into the tutoring lab, which is another exceptional space where they are expected to complete their homework and work on creative projects. All of the proceeds from the store go directly to support the organization.
We just did the Poketo + 826LA, When Wallets Eat Words wallet collaboration. It was so much fun! What other collaborations have you done? What else is in the works? How do these collabs come about? Are you looking for them or do they happen naturally?
We love the wallets and were so excited to see them come to life! We feel very strongly about how important it is for kids to realize how writing can open up the world for them. The project with Poketo was a great example of how writing and art combine and make something unique.
Collaboration is crucial to the success of 826LA. Most of our product is created through collaboration, from actual products for sale in the store to services we offer like tutoring and workshops. We could not do it without the help of such talented and generous people. Another of my favorites is the Time Line of Fragrances – it’s 10 different fragrances that span 34,000 BCE (Caveman) to 77778 (Dystopia). They were created by Yosh, a perfumer who once managed the Pirate Store in San Francisco, so she really knew what we were looking for and they are just amazing.
Anything you are hoping, wishing, aiming for in 2009?
We look forward to celebrating our 1st anniversary of the EP tutoring lab in January and the store in April. We continue to grow and always need volunteers to come down and help tutor – we have up to 40 kids some days! And of course we are always looking for projects with great folks like Poketo.
You can visit the store and find out how you can be part of 826LA at www.826la.org.
You can see videos, read interviews, and purchase the Poketo + 826LA wallets at poketo.com and the Time Travel Mart, 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, (213)413-3388