We are so ecstatic to welcome Left Field to MoJo Row! You may know Nick Wilkinson from his reputable shop in Cambria, Grow Nursery. Well, he's moved right across the street from us, and we walked over to hear a little bit of his story, below:
How did you come to own Grow & now Left Field?
About ten years ago I was running a restaurant in San Diego, and going to school down at San Diego State. I had started out just bussing tables and by the time I was twenty-two was in the management vibe there—it was good company to work for and I liked it, but it was one of those moments where I was like “Am i gonna be comping prime ribs and working in a bar for the rest of my life, or not?” My parents lived up this way and I came to visit them—at the time my middle brother and I were talking about starting a nursery together—we decided it wasn’t going to work and he was going to do something else. But I had asked this gal at the old exotic gardens if she would sell the business and after a few months, she said yes, so we bought that. We were up there for about six years, and everything was fine and we made it—but moving down to the main drag (in downtown Cambria) was a big pickup for our business. We’ve grown a lot there.
But being in Cambria makes you sensitive to how far you are from SLO. You don’t think of it, you think, Oh it’s just Cambria. The mast majority of our biz there is just tourists—so we’re giving it a go in SLO to see if we could connect more and do more local work. We were looking for years, and recently looking at this space—mainly because Ruby Rose is across the street and it’s nice to have someone with a similar vibe. We both have crossover things, which is the vintage. No matter what we wont have the same stuff, even if we have the same box or ladder, it’s still different, so it’s easy to have the crossover. When we found out they had this roll up door, I was addicted to the building.
What got you into plants?
When I was going to SDSU I really got into plants. It was the typical 19-year-old pad and we just got into it. I grew up with a lot of plants around me, my mom had a lot. What drew me to them is the same thing that drew people to them and made them popular—the architectural nature and they all kind of have their own personality. I started to have a pretty good collection of them and vintage pots. I probably had thirty pots with succulents in them through the 70’s. I got my degree in Arts, so this was all self taught. Friends had a shop in Old Town San Diego and they mentored me.
Have you always been into vintage stuff?
Yeah, being just like you, we were into all kinds of vintage stuff. At the time, it was a lot of mid century modern stuff, not the rusty things. I like just about all things, I’m not really a snob about objects, if it has a story that is cool I can usually get into it. We started out as more of a nursery and then got into vintage as a way to funk up the space, they create a texture and interest for the store. I used to never want to sell stuff like that, but I've gotten to the point where there’s really not too much that’s not for sale. If we sell that big ole chest on day four, then it drives me to go out and buy more for the store—it keeps things from getting stagnant. At the end of the day, everything is for sale.
And Deer Run also has a presence here?
Leslie is a friend of mine and had a store when I was out at Exotic Gardens. When I moved into the shop by hers, behind the Garden Shed (Cambria), she just had her 70th birthday and it was getting to be too much I think for her. Mostly it’s my gig, she’ll have her stuff here and throw her two cents in, but I’ll make all the big decisions.
Where did you get the name Left Field?
We went back and forth and we had several names, but I wanted it to be different than Grow, because the space is different. We wanted it to represent that it was going to be oddball—we had also thought of calling it Misc. but I got outvoted (laughs). I like Left Field, too: “way out in left field,” objects that make you think, where did that come from? That’s why we went with Unexpected Goods and Greenery as the tagline. It all came together, and I feel good about it. Having done my thing at Grow almost ten years ago, it was nice to be able to rebrand something and do it just a little bit different, so it’s fun.
Minerals or plants?
Plants forever probably. I mean, I like those mineral things a lot, too.
If you were going to be buried with a plant, which one would it be?
I told my wife when I die, I want to be cremated and for them to repot all my plants with my ashes mixed in with the soil.
You have an adjoining space that will opening up as well?
We’re going to have a gallery place there where we’ll be showing mostly people from out of town—but we’ll have some locals mixed in. I’m trying to keep with the unexpected theme, do shows that people wouldn’t expect or do different shows that people haven’t seen a hundred times. The best locals get shows and I support those guys and I buy art from local people, but for me i’m just not interested in regurgitating the same shows. I would rather bring in something and get people inspired by some new things.
The gallery’s projected open date is February 20th—and expect Left Field’s Grand Opening the same day! Be sure and follow @leftfieldslo on Instagram, and peruse their store: open M-Sat 10-6 and Sun 11-5