MUSICEYES & EDGE

Welcome Back From LA, Red Monkey

MUSICEYES & EDGE
Welcome Back From LA, Red Monkey

Photo Courtesy of James Minchin IIIWelcome back to Oregon, Torry Pendergrass.In early June, Pendergrass, founder of Red Monkey and a native Oregonian, opened a New Orleans-style retail store in Old Chinatown at 214 N.W. Couch St. For the last several years, he's been running his brand of tough leather watches, cuffs, guitar straps and other accessories from Los Angeles. Some have even graced the bodies of a few rocker celebrities.But, he says, it was time to move back home, and his new shop joins all the other boutiques recently springing up in Old Town. Pendergrass shares more about the move and the brand:E+E: Tell me about your connection to Portland. Did you grow up in Oregon?Torry Pendergrass: I was raised in Yamhill.  I was definitely a city kid that was stuck in the country.  I moved away as soon as humanly possible.  First to France for a year in high school, then Seattle for a couple of years.  Then on to Los Angeles which was only supposed to be for a year as I had dreams of New York City.Twenty years later, I realized it was time to move on.  Portland topped the list as it's really become a wildly progressive city.  I've always said Portland was a big town but I think it's finally safe to say it a small city.  It just feels like home.  I think it's one of the best kept secret places to live.  It's bothersome when locals ask, "Why would you want to move here?" They don't even realize how good they have it.  I absolutely love it here.Photo Courtesy of Torry Pendergrass E+E: How did you decide to open a flagship store in Oregon?Pendergrass: I would make it up to Portland a couple times a year to see family and always thought it would be nice to have a change of lifestyle.  Moving a business, employees, my life, just always seemed like such a romantic fantasy but this last Christmas I came up and spent more time than the usual few days.This time I was hooked and started looking for spaces (you know, just kind of dreaming of the day).  This is when I found our space.  It is a spitting image of a retail shop that I had for seven years in Hollywood, Calif.[It's a] cool, gritty side of town with a second level for my design studio.  It just fit...After a couple of flights up to check out the space and neighborhood, I had made up my mind.  The next step was convincing my crew (of many years) and loved ones that this was a smart move.  They are all born and raised in Los Angeles. That's dedication for ya!E+E: What's staying in L.A.? Or are you moving all operations up here?Pendergrass: I've kept my house in L.A. but we moved the entire Red Monkey camp up with the exception of our sales team.  My current space was taken over by my brother.  It's a 3,700-square-foot warehouse house that's perfect for his hot rod shop "Caution Customs."I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy.  I had to relocate two of my key guys and their families.  We then hired locals to fill in the gaps.E+E: What will your store look like? Anything special with your retail space?Photo Courtesy of Torry PendergrassPendergrass: The store is very unique.  Unlike anything in Portland at the moment.  I like to call it's style "New Orleans Gothic." The space features high ceilings, glass chandeliers, a Triumph motorcycle, rock 'n' roll photography that I've shot, and all our high-end accessories and apparel that are hand built in house.The space is about 1,500 square feet.  The front half is retail and the back is the workshop.  The upstairs features my  photo studio and t-shirt printing shop.E+E: How has your company grown?Pendergrass: In the 18 years since I started Red Monkey, I have grown to 14 employees, beat off the ankle biters trying to steal the name and design ideas, honed the business to make it way more efficient and streamlined without going corporate.  We have certainly matured on many levels.  We now run on a way more grassroots level with 6 employees.  It feels like a really cool family misfit toys and that's exactly how I like it.  It was getting a bit out of hand a few years back with too many employees.  It started to loose it's vibe and started feeling to much like a machine instead of cool design house.  We also have a shop in Tokyo, Japan and have a large presence in Europe.E+E: Anything else you'd like to share?Pendergrass: We love Portland!!  Thank you for embracing us and we looking forward making you proud...Written By: Dominique Fong//