Brian and Colin Cooley, proprietors of the Wicked+ General Store. Photo by Mark McDermott
Brian and Colin Cooley are accidental retailers.
Wicked+ General Store, the brothers’ storefront on upper Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, began as an office for their marketing and PR firm. The brothers were formerly based in Atlanta. They fell in love with the South Bay, and Hermosa particularly, on frequent business trips to the LA area. Early in 2008, they set themselves a goal of moving here. Eleven months later, they became Hermosans. They primarily kept home offices but eventually shared a space in the little cottage on Pier Avenue with a property management company. The bulk of their firm remained in Atlanta.
When the management company moved out, the Cooleys couldn’t bear to part with the cottage. So in 2011, they rented the whole office, even though it was more space than they needed. This meant that Brian started parking his locally made Linus bicycle inside, and the little shop started getting populated with a few other of their favorite things, such as modernly designed furniture and a bright red EB2 lamp. They also de-formalized the office-like feel of the place, lifting the blinds and leaving the front door wide open.
Then a funny thing started happening.
“As we worked during the day, people started walking in our office,” Colin recalled. “And they’d see our furniture and they’d see Brian’s bike, and they’d be like, ‘How much is that bike?’ And we’d say, ‘This is not a store.’”
As it kept happening, the thought occurred to them – why not make it a store?
“We thought, you know, this would actually make a good retail space….The whole idea was people liked what we had in our office, so why not just just sell stuff we like, things we are already fans of?” Brian Cooley said.
Because the store wasn’t their primary business, they could afford to run it as idiosyncratically as they liked, keeping irregular hours based on when they happened to be at work and carrying only products that they were particularly attached to: Linus bikes, old-fashioned shaving equipment, beautiful design and eclectic biography (think Steve McQueen) books, Venice-based Topo Ranch clothing, duffels, and backpacks, Brooks bicycle saddles and sundries (such as a single bottle wine carrier), and array of coffee goods that included a hand-cranked burr grinder, AeroPress coffee makers and the famed Chemex drip cylinders, and downtown LA’s highly-sought coffee beans from Handsome Coffee.
Wicked+ has become known as a different kind of “men’s store”, although customers sometimes wonder what exactly it is they’ve stumbled upon when they examine the store’s decidedly particular wares.
“They’ll come in and be like, ‘I don’t get this store – you’ve got backpacks, bikes, coffee, and razors,’” Brian Cooley said. “But then we show people, if you look at our backpack, it’s simple; the razor, it’s a safety razor, one blade, no battery. The bikes are just straight lines. The coffee maker doesn’t even plug into a wall. Everything is simple, and somewhat of an everyday essential.”
“It’s about simple things that can add a little bit more value to the way you live,” Colin said. “It’s fine when you can make your coffee with a coffee maker and push a button and step away and go take a shower and come back and have your hot coffee, but sometimes it’s nice to do it with [a French press] or a Chemex – it connects you a little bit more with the process. Same thing with the bike – you have your beach cruiser and that is kind of fun on the Strand, but the Linus is fun for everyday commuting. It’s got a different feel that you average bike and it’s something you look forward to.”
The brothers have been surprised by some of the responses they’ve gotten.
“This guy came in wearing all this Wisconsin Badger gear, a total dude guy, and as he left, he said, ‘I love this shop. This is a beautiful shop.’ And we were like, ‘Did he just say beautiful?’ From tatted 19-year-old guys to Manhattan Beach moms, people get it.”
145 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, 310-318-5741 or see at wicked.is.