San Diego might be flying under the radar in this regard compared to other major cities such as Los Angeles, but it still has its own identity.
“San Diego is really its own thing,” 9Five Eyewear employee Leon St. Heron said. “[It] always has been, there is some great history that comes from the city that’s overlooked because people can’t help but to rival the two cities.”
A city’s population helps make its own identity. When it comes to fashion culture, the same principle applies. Los Angeles has Fairfax and Rodeo Drive, New York has the Garment District — and San Diego has the corners where 8th Street meets G Street.
San Diego’s streetwear culture converges on this square block radius. This stylish part of downtown San Diego’s East Village is home to a slew of streetwear shops that share more than just the sidewalk outside their shop doors.
8th and G Streets house a group of shops that share business and good times. The stores in this area have created a niche for themselves in a city with an underated street-style culture.
5 & A Dime is one of the stores holding down the corners and is a longstanding shop on 8th and G Street. The brother and sister duo of Jason and Darcie Huggins just might have paved the way for what 8th and G Street is now. The siblings opened the shop on a Black Friday almost 10 years ago.
Currently, the meeting point of the two streets is home to seven shops; all of varying products.
5 & A Dime is a typical streetwear shop, selling its brand of clothing as well as cheesecake inspired cookies which have come to be known as Good Stuff. However its neighbors vary types of products they carry — catering to every type of need.
Blends is a fashion forward shoe store that offers the latest kicks for its consumers.
9Five Eyewear and HDQTRS have both moved on from 8th and G, but they got their start on the East Village block. Additionally Neighborhood holds a space which serves as an excellent lunch spot for the neighboring businesses.
Super 7 is the latest addition to the block, and it sells uniquely designed toys and action figures. Soon to come is a barber shop that will round out the variety of options on 8th and G, Jason Huggins, owner of 5 & a Dime said.
8th and G Street is a one stop shop for products, and shopping there helps support local business. The loyal customers know that these stores offer quality goods for consumers.
But, those loyal consumers weren’t easy to come by.
Considering that San Diego is a transplant city, it can be hard to garner a strong following in the community. But, it is still possible.
Downtown’s East Village has been an area on the rise for years. Huggins has spent the past 10 years witnessing that rise from his store-fornt.
“I see East Village kind of growing,” Huggins said. “It’s just not growing as fast as we like. But we’re going to stick it out. And luckily we have people in this area that feel the same way we do”.
8th and G became so well known by locals, that regular shoppers at the stores created what came to be known as the 8th and G Gang. It wasn’t an idea started by the owners, St. Heron said. It was started by the locals who were part of the community and wanted to support something homegrown.
But it’s not just locals who find the diamond in the rough that is the 8th and G Street shops.
People come and go all year round, whether it be for business or pleasure. But also, there are some who come and don’t go, they fall in love with San Diego and they stay put.
Mike Garnica moved to San Diego from Texas after high school. It wasn’t long before he found himself attracted to what 8th and G had to offer.
“All the shops offer great products,” Garnica said. “It’s high quality. And it’s great to rep where you’re living.”
The niche area has also seen its fair share of trials and tribulations. The area has persevered through the economic recession.
“Being here as long as we have, we’ve kind of experienced the highs and lows,” Huggins said.
Considering that Huggins’s store has been around the longest, he has seen the most change. Stores have come and gone, stores have moved mere blocks away, his store moved a block away; but one thing remains certain, Huggins feels attached to the concrete on 8th and G.
“We’ve been here for a really long time,” Huggins said. “And since we have our feet firmly planted here we really want to see this thing through.”
Downtown storefronts aren’t always the busiest of places, especially daytime hours during the week. But for a spot like 8th and G, it’s easy to pass the time with friends.
It’s not uncommon to see employees from each of the stores wander next door to shoot the breeze with employees of the other shops. This is what makes the dynamic on 8th and G different.
“Everyone has work for everyone else, we all know the systems and we all know the owners,” St. Heron said. “Anyone on the block could easily call anyone to watch the stores. It’s like babysitting and we are uncles & cousins. It’s kinda dope.”
MULTIMEDIA: Jason Huggins, owner of 5 & A Dime, explains how the East Village’s 8th and G Street block is a unique shopping destination.
It’s that type of camaraderie that is pushing the East Village to a new height. Instead of battling it out between each other in a cut throat business model, these shops band together to benefit the group of stores as a whole.
“East Village, Downtown San Diego still needs a lot of work.” Huggins said. “So it’s kind of our responsibility to work together, whether we like it or not. Luckily, we’re all friends so it makes it really easy.”
This is not something that’s as common in typical shopping areas. Sure, stores might be cordial to other stores that are near, but it’s not the same kind of bond that is seen at 8th and G.
Fairfax in Los Angeles does not operate that way, Huggins said. Up there, it’s much more clear that everyone is on their own.
This type of attitude does not go unnoticed. Even from the customer perspective it’s clear that there’s something different and special about 8th and G.
“Even as a consumer you can see it,” Garnica said. “You’ll walk into a shop and see guys from other shops. And they all speak so highly of each other.”
This part of downtown has built a name for itself by not only putting out quality goods, but by also banding together for the betterment of all. It’s a different atmosphere than most consumers are probably used to.
“It’s more about the connection,” St. Heron said. “Nobody is out for themselves down there.”
No one shop is better than the other, because it may be business — but it’s all for one and one for all.