By Beryl Forman
In 2003, Rashad Marx, who was just 19, opened The Source, a boutique in Tijuana dedicated to independent design and graffiti art. He sourced most of the clothing from north of the border by connecting with designers in LA, San Francisco, New York, and San Diego. The Source thrived for a little over five years before it finally fell victim to Tijuana’s economic decline, which came as an aftermath to 9-11,the Mexican drug war and American border policies.
From the 1920’s to the early part of the 21st Century, Tijuana was a constant mecca for tourists. Its downtown entertainment corridor, Avenida Revolución, was thronged by Americans seeking a vaguely exotic, cheap foreign excursion. Tijuanans tended to steer clear of the crowds and the escalated prices in the main ‘tourist’ drag, even though there were many young people who would probably have enjoyed mingling with the wild, drunk Americans. Once tourism plummeted, downtown businesses began catering to the desires of Tijuana’s young and artsy locals. The city began its slow renaissance led by business entrepreneurs, cultural organizations, and artists.
In 2011, Rashad heard from a friend that a non-profit organization was looking for local, visual artists to fill the small shops of Pasaje Rodriguez at reduced rent. The Pasajes are a network of charming arcades developed as retail and residential, pedestrian thoroughfares along Avenida Revolución. Rashad grew up in downtown Tijuana and frequented the pasajes where his grandfather owned the jewelry store, Azteca Joyería. With this family history in mind, Rashad seized the opportunity and opened the Mom Store.
Rashad has an innate knack for uncovering hidden treasures and a love for clothing items with a past life. The Mom Store specializes in one-off items that Rashad has selectively unearthed from the outskirts of the city. A rotating selection of casual, colorful, retro articles of clothing which reflect his avant-garde style, line the racks of the store. He also sells records revealing his eclectic taste for jazz, tropicalia, prog rock, heavy psych, teen beat, funk, and soul music. With such low overhead, Rashad sells nearly everything at a low, low price of 50 pesos ($5). One of the most popular features of the Mom Store is a shallow plastic pool with a mountain of clothes and a large blow-up fish, called the 10 Peso Pool.
Pasjae Rodriguez has seen a number of businesses come and go and activity can appear dismal sometimes, especially when the art galleries are closed. Fortunately, the Mom Store is just one of a cluster of businesses successfully attracting stable, regular customers. There is Mexican Fashion which sells custom silk-screened t-shirts and a beautiful book store with a tiled archway and fascinating collection of Mexican literature. The most recent edition to the pasajes is a microbrewery selling craft beer on tap for 20 pesos, which has quickly become a great neighborhood gathering place.
With all this activity, the Mom Store finds itself catering to a wide variety of customers. In the morning, kids found skipping school will browse through Rashad’s collection, along with transient members of the community who have great appreciation for the 10 Peso Pool. Throughout the afternoon, Rashad greets urban fashionistas,omen of all ages, and members of Tijuana’s gay community. The Mom store has also built an interesting base of fans from across the border, which Rashad credits to his slowly evolving relationship with social media.
Being right at the center of Tijuana’s burgeoning renaissance has given Rashad a sense of pride and purpose. Rashad is a man of the town, and while his network of creative allies continues to grow and converge, he confidently embraces ideas and opportunities which resonate from the source.