It doesn’t get much more small-town than Cayucos. Here, everybody knows your name—and you may not know what you’re doing, but your neighbor surely does. Leave it to three local surfer dudes to breathe new life back into the somewhat insular art scene of Cayucos.
The Cayucos Collective, originally started as an online gallery helmed by Anthony Circosta, Abe Toke, and Balin Abendroth, just celebrated its first year as a brick-and-mortar location.
- PHOTO BY KAT SCHUSTER
- STOKED: Shane Stoneman is a surfboard shaper, musician, and artist. Some of his artwork can be found on the walls of The Cayucos Collective.
The gallery and custom-printing studio is nestled within downtown inside the old Cayucos Ale House spot. The space hosts a plethora of paintings, jewelry, surfboard art, apparel, and sculptures, and everything’s Central Coast-made.
After the alehouse closed in downtown Cayucos, locals were anxious to find out what could possibly take its place. Fortunately, the new art gallery has been well received. On Saturday, July 11, locals gathered under the old alehouse roof—but this time, the beer was gratis.
“This party was all about giving back to the community that has supported us over the last year.” Circosta said at the end of the night. Before the fun ended, I was happy to chat up all three founders and talk dreams, cervesas, and T-shirt art. As it turns out, the guys are riding high on more than sweet waves.
New Times: Who owns Cayucos Collective?
Toke: Anthony and I are the managing partners of the business along with Balin, who joined the crew about a year into the venture. All of us grew up here locally and are really stoked to operate a business dedicated to the local art community and Central Coast beach culture. I’m the art director and mange the gallery. I also do graphic artwork for clients and contribute a lifetime of artistic endeavors and creative workmanship to the business. I showcase some of my own art in the gallery, too.
Circosta: I’m the tech guru and custom printing manager. I use my Cal Poly media degree to build and maintain the Cayucos Collective website and social networks. I also assist clients with custom graphic design work and tend to general administrative stuff. Balin Abendroth is the sales representative and PR extraordinaire. He’s also a Cal Poly graduate. Bal uses his keen sensibility to inform local businesses and others about the benefits of working with the Cayucos Collective to produce their own custom goods and as a rad place to check out local art.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF CAYUCOS HOT SAUCE
- EARTHY: The Cayucos Collective can print any image on these natural wood canvases. Abe Toke is hard at work behind these wood prints.
NT: Where did the idea come from?
Circosta: In 2010, Abe and I were working on a project in which we designed and made clothing using cutting-edge digital printing technology. Years later, the project lost direction; we still wanted to use the acquired skills to create cool stuff for people. We pondered a businesses model that would facilitate creativity for expert artists and novices alike. The Cayucos Collective spawned as an idea for a place where people can view edgy local artwork and become creative themselves by making designs for clothing that would be made on the spot in front of their eyes.
NT: What motivated you to transition from an online store to a physical retail shop?
Toke: Our main goal was to find a retail location in downtown Cayucos that had enough room to exhibit the artwork and house our custom printing equipment. The online gallery helped us build our name and gave us a virtual place to start accumulating art.
Circosta: There was a point where it felt like the existing stores were never going to move out of the few available places in Cayucos. Almost a year into the website and no light at the end of the tunnel, our enthusiasm was beginning to wane. Then, out of the blue, the alehouse moved out of a premier spot in Cayucos, and a couple weeks later the retail location finally came up for rent.
Toke: We scraped together all our resources and had a friend of ours link us up with the landlords of the building. Thankfully the owners, to whom we are forever grateful, believed in our vision and accepted our application. We got the keys in May and started scraping beer-soaked linoleum gunk and glue off the floor as fast as we could, hoping we could open the doors by the Fourth of July. In early June 2014, we cracked open the door and put a shirt on the front of the building that read “put your Photo on a shirt” with an image of the Cayucos pier by local surf photographer Ira Amerson. Later that day, some guy came in and wanted to put his dog on a shirt. The rest is history.
NT: Describe your experience in getting the business to an actual retail spot. Did you have to find investors?
Circosta: Ha! Investors ... sounds great. Know any? But we are, for better or worse, pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. To get this biz rolling we scraped together change from every corner of every crevice we could find, and I think most people would laugh if they knew how little we started with. Luckily, we did work quickly enough to open up by the Fourth of July holiday, and that did give us a little injection of funds that allowed us to buy some of our first inventory, which really got the whole biz rolling.
NT: Did the original idea for the business change at all?
Toke: Originally, we didn’t know whether or not we were going to offer the instant custom clothing to the public. It sounded like it could be too complicated or that technical difficulties would arise. However, after a few weeks of successful testing it out, we had a feeling the custom printing would be part of our business in the future.
Circosta: We’re really stoked to announce that we’ve developed our new custom design web app so you can actually go on our website and design your custom product using an easy and intuitive interface. We added a little twist to our design experience and embedded some local music, so you can jam out to our Central Coast tunes while you design. I’m pretty sure we’re the first to do that.
Kat Schuster can be found in her natural habitat by the sea in her hometown of Cayucos. You can contact her through interim Arts Editor Hayley Thomas at email@example.com.