The art of survival
on September 29, 2020
Sitting on a stool behind the counter of the Mom & Pop Art Shop on West Richmond Avenue, Jacinto Castillo waves to Rick, a frequent visitor to the neighborhood who often stops by to say hello.
“Hey!” Rick tells the 35-year-old Castillo. “Niners are playing Arizona right now!”
“Yeah, keep me score!” said Castillo, grinning. Castillo owns Mom & Pop Art Shop, a place he thinks of as a “throwback to the old days,” when people went to their neighborhood store to buy things and get to know one another.
His wife, Kelly Nicolaisen, a visual artist who co-owns the shop, agrees.
“That sense of community might be Point Richmond’s best kept secret,” she said.
Mom & Pop Art Shop, which opened just five years ago, offers a wide array of Frida Kahlo pillows, handcrafted jewelry, custom artwork and antiques made by more than 100 local artists. The shop has also featured several artists in their tiny gallery space, which sits adjacent to their shop. For artists, sharing their artwork had been as easy as dropping by to talk with the owners.
Things, however, changed in late March.
Mom & Pop Art Shop had to close down. For a while, the owners could see customers by appointment only. Castillo was worried at first that his customer base would dwindle. Instead, he was happily surprised to see 20 to 30 people on a daily basis. They also moved online to Etsy. The combination of daily visits to their stores and sales online had kept them in business.
Now, the store is open again – no appointments necessary. Castillo and his wife are working hard to revive their collaboration with local artists. They’ve posted a sign-up sheet for artists to display their work, but are still figuring out the logistics of socially distanced exhibits.
“We would take over the alley, take over the whole front of the street,” Castillo said excitedly, describing a time when Mom & Pop Art Shop’s events were at the heart of the community. “We’d have food trucks and games in the alley and tons of people would show up”.
“I think more than ever people need that right now,” Castillo said.
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