NORMA IBARRA PORTFOLIO // 11.3
— Along with a smile as big as her camera bag (it’s massive), Norma brings so much originality to the table. She...
Shopkeeper, with Wes O’Driscoll at Nowhere Fast in Edmonton
Interview and photos by Tommy Berlin
For anyone who doesn’t know, where is Nowhere Fast located?
We are located in downtown Edmonton. Pretty much as downtown as it gets, right in the core.
When did you open Nowhere Fast, and what were you doing prior to opening the shop?
The shop opened about three years ago, and it kinda opened initially as an office. Before I was running Nowhere Fast as a store, it was kind of a cut-and-sew, not fashion, but it was a cut-and-sew clothing brand made in Canada, different price point, and it was a bit different. Nowhere Fast is 10 years old this year, but the store itself is only three years old. So seven years before the store opened I was focusing on Nowhere Fast as only a brand, and not as a retail space.
What sparked you to open up a brick-and-mortar store instead of an online shop like so many other companies these days?
It’s a lot easier in a way to stay ahead of things when you’re only focusing on your store and not online as well. Part of the answer would be for convenience, but also I’ve always wanted to do what I’m doing for the people who live in the community that I am a part of. So, the online thing, we haven’t done that yet because I’m more focused on building something in the place where I live and spend time. I don’t get to relate and chat with everyone if it’s all online.
What factors do you consider when looking to stock a new brand?
I definitely listen a lot to the people who are in here shopping. I get a lot of my ideas of what to stock from what I’ve seen kids wearing, or sometimes I’ll have a week where a few different people all reference a brand that I haven’t really heard of, and that makes me think this is something I should look into. I factor that in, and then I assess it and I just decide what I want to take the risk on. If it’s a new brand and I think it’s going to do okay, there’s no one else at the company so I can be selfish in that sense and what I want to stock, I can stock. There’s also the other side where I have to learn the hard way with what works and what doesn’t, because there isn’t anyone chiming in saying this might not work for whatever reason.
Are there any brands in particular that are flying off the shelves right now?
Sneeze always sells well. GX1000 is doing really good this season, too; I think this is the third season we’ve had from them. It never didn’t do well, but this season it’s been performing a lot better. A brand called Iggy from New York, they’ve been doing really well. That’s one of my favourite new brands, I didn’t know much about them, but a friend of mine showed me them, and everything they’re doing is great. That’s an instance of where I kinda take a risk, and decide I think this thing is cool and I want to stock it, then when it actually does well, that’s always a good thing. With the type of store that I have, I want to bring in brands that are going to perform, because everyone has bills to pay, but I don’t want anything that would jeopardize the overall aesthetic of the place. So if I can find brands that fit and perform that’s exactly what I need to keep this place open.
What is keeping kids from picking up a skateboard in Edmonton right now?
I personally think there are a lot of kids picking up skateboards right now. I see kids in here for their first board all the time, and I know that there are kids getting their first boards at other stores, too. So I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s an issue with people not engaging and trying skateboarding. I think intimidation could be a factor. I remember when I wanted to start skating how intimidated I was by the scene, and going to shops was always kind of nerve-racking for me. I assume it’s the same these days and I just really want to create a place where kids feel not only that they’re allowed to be there, that they should be there. More community is the answer; a welcoming environment will breed more people trying skateboarding.
What sort of events are you holding to keep skateboarding interesting and fun in the city?
Last year we did a couple barbeques and we just picked some of the parks around the city, chose a date, and luckily we got great weather both days. We just roasted up hotdogs for all the kids,; the whole event was just to bring awareness to skateboarding and have fun. There were a couple contests and giveaways but there was no monetary gain. It was just to bring people together, to build the community, and to let people know that they are welcome. We’re definitely working on something big for Go Skate Day this year.
Is there anything that you do differently from other shops that you think makes you stand out?
First of all, let me say that I don’t personally feel that I’m standing out really over any other shops. I think what we do here is maybe relate and listen to the youth more. Like when the kids ask me about a brand, I’ll look at it, and chances are I’ll try it out for a season and see how it works. That all comes from me being the only person here. I’m the face of the company, and I’m the only staff member. So when there are people in here, it’s only me talking to them, and I can build a rapport with my customers that other places might not be able to cultivate. For me, I just want to hang out with the kids and listen to what they’re saying. I mean, if we are standing out I would say that’s why.
Is there anything cool happening in Edmonton in terms of art or music right now?
There’s a ton of very cool stuff happening, almost too much to mention. I mean there are people who I’ve known for years who have been talking about projects they intend to work on, someone trying painting or someone trying to make music. Right now it feels like everyone is doing what they’ve been talking about, so there’s a huge amount of stuff going on in the city. There are more art shows popping up, more bands and more smalltime celebrities coming to perform, when you didn’t really see that a couple years ago. If I could say one name, our friend Seth is rapping right now and I’ve been helping him book some shows. He’s doing a great job, if anyone cares to check him out, his rap name is Blu Kobina. It’s awesome—everyone’s doing a great job.
What do you think contributes to a good skate scene?
The family, the sense of everyone getting along. I wanted to build a place where people who are on the same page can meet. I’ve seen kids trade ‘zines in here, I’ve seen kids who have never met, meet here and go off and shoot photos causes they both had cameras around their necks. I think the best thing for any scene is the community, and the family that comes along with it. The scene seems to be growing pretty well around here, and I’m proud of all the kids for coming together and doing a lot of cool stuff.
What’s currently keeping you inspired?
As corny as it sounds, I get inspired by almost everything. I find inspiration in the weirdest things and I’ve always found myself lucky to be able to find inspiration in small things. Basically, being able to have this store and being able to meet people, and talk to people of all ages, and all walks of life about what they’re inspired by, that’s what really inspires me. At the end of every single day, I go home so happy, even if I have no sales that day, even if I have no sales that week, there’s always people in here showing me something new. There’s just so much to be inspired by within the shop and all the people I’ve met through it.
In the coming years, what are some of your goals for the shop?
When I think about the future like that, I don’t really think about what’s going to happen with the shop, I think about what’s going to happen with the city, how the scene will grow, and all the new events. I’m just trying to build something right now that grows into something bigger than a shop, and that’s really what I care about in the future.