While working the front register, it's not uncommon for customers to ask about the product that occupies the two front glass counters. As our customer base grows, sometimes a brief history can provide insight about the roots of our business, the designs on our shirts, and our shop decor.
After working out of a garage for about a year, we opened our first store in 2007. We had two printing presses, a bathroom (our darkroom), a desk, a horrible mural painted by me, and a couch. Here's a couple pictures from July 31, about a month after we moved in:
John Milner already hard at work planning the finances for the upcomming 10 years.
Co-Founder Bryson Panas in the background crusing through the shop on a skatedeck. Not an uncommon scene in the early days.
As soon as we moved into the space I began painting the walls. Since highschool I'd always had an affinity for graffiti and mural painting, so once we'd moved into our own space the walls instantly became our canvases. After a couple months we built an interior wall to divide the shop, and like the other walls it became covered in graffiti.
The countertop and rolling rack were our first pieces of store furniture. The graffiti on the walls was provided by a few local artists we had met through hosting hip-hop events dubbed "School of Thought."
A good friend of the shop was(is) an artist named Kaleb Nimz. He was regularly hanging around the shop and shared similar interests such as graffiti, bikes, and skateboarding. Kaleb became our first employee and printer. As our interests increased with connecting to the local graffiti scene we also began picking up a few commissioned graffiti mural jobs throughout the city. At the time there was no where in the state that carried spray paint marketed toward graffiti and street artists. Although it was a huge stretch for our business, we decided to become providers of the highest quality spray paint available: MTN Colors.
Our first wholesale order was $500 and our shop took a big hit in spending this type of money at such an early stage of business. At the time, selling paint was a risk and offered very little mark up. Still to this day, our paint sales offer the least amount of markup of anything in the store and we provide our paint at a lower cost than the suggested MSRP.
Along with selling paint, we began sponsoring and supporting events that encouraged hip-hop, breakdancing, and graffiti. Battle of the Plains and Made You Look were art shows that we participated in, helped organize, and set up event booths at. Sadly, there are few current local events that capture the true nature of Oklahoma hip-hop and graffiti like these did...
Kaleb holding down the booth at Battle of the Plains 2007. Notice The Root Underground t-shirts. This is where the term "TRU" comes from. (Side Note: The Root Underground was a small anonymous newsletter distributed through Tree & Leaf throughout 2007...)
As our shop grew, so did our love for the local graffiti scene and our paint supply. In our humble opinion, there is no better paint than Montana Colors imported from Barcelona, Spain. As I tell many of our customers, it's the 'Cadillac of spray paints.' Each can has a different purpose, each tip provides a different spray pattern, the paint is thicker, and the colors are more diverse. We take providing this unique and high quality paint seriously and we directly support the art scene in Oklahoma City. We have been actively involved in providing free graffiti demonstrations for The Great State Fair 2011 (2010), The Arts Festival, and multiple art walks. We were invited by the Metropolitan Library system to provide youth classes about graffiti history, legality, and demonstrations for 9 libraries across the state (video), and even provided mural work for The US Conference of Mayors held in 2010. Even works we've provided on our own finances and time such as the "Thunder Up" mural have been seen in countless senior or engagement photos and as the backgrounds on many phones and computers.
We are well aware that "graffiti" can carry negative connotations and stir many emotions. We hope that our work across the community has helped shed a positive light on an artform that we are truly passionate about supporting and being apart. We will be happy to provide you with the best information about the Montana line of paints, markers, and inks but will never sell paint to anyone under the age of 18 (so bring a parent or an I.D!)