Precedents of UnitedState

Paul and Brandy Brizuela

Photo by Nick Miller

Paul Brizuela and his wife, Brandy, own and operate UnitedState clothing and deejay boutique in Midtown (1014 24th Street)—the small store packed with colorful stuff (clothing, shoes, records, flyers for shows, people) serves not just as an outlet for street fashion, but also as a brick-and-mortar front for a revolution of hip-hop and art. UnitedState sets a good example for the area by sponsoring deejays (Esef, Rock Bottom, Nocturnal, Mike Diamond, Riff Raff and others) and hosting Second Saturday art shows that fill the streets with fashion-hungry consumers.

Is it OK working with your wife?

Um, it’s a marriage; it’s work, you know?

No. Do you guys market differently in this economy?

We’ve been stronger—focusing on more events. We took a little bit more control, sponsoring deejays, being a promoter for a club night for Risqué—an indie-electro night [] at Club 21 [1119 21st Street] every third Saturday. And the Beat Gallery [club night] is at Club 21 every Second Saturday. It’s an artist/vendor show with deejays from our UntiedState crew. Instead of having one boutique, a group of artists can set up shop at tables and have room for their work.

So UnitedState has a crew of deejays?

Yeah, we sponsored a handful of deejays from the get-go, since we were a record shop/clothing shop. … We’re just helping them with graphic arts and promoting events. I help them graphically, since I know graphic arts. I design flyers. If they have an event, I give them a logo, provide them a graphic. I help them out with ideas and try to conform to their ideas as far as making events happen or growing as an artist. I feel more like a big brother helping with events. At the same time, I feed off of what they’re doing, too. It goes hand in hand. We work together.

Why do you sponsor deejays?

Just knowing how deejays function and knowing how events work in the underground scene, you try to get as much help as you can. Being a storefront, as much promotion as we do ourselves, just pushing other people’s names for a culture that we believe in just helps them out, and it helps us out by putting our name on there as well. It’s a cross-promotion. We’re trying to bring fashion, music and subcultures that are happening around the world to Sacramento. I was born and raised here, so I always wanted to bring that piece that I saw in [Los Angeles] and in [San Francisco] into Sacramento.

Are people still buying expensive street wear?

That wasn’t our goal when we first opened. I mean, street wear, in a sense, is urban, so it has to be cheap. It has to be affordable. We’ll have some [expensive] brands, but that’s not our main focus. … You get carried away as far as the hype on brands, but you have to [say], “Would you buy this as a college student?” We want to make sure you look fresh.

A few other boutiques have opened this year. Is it a big competition?

As far as brands go, we’re pretty established. We’re not too concerned with other stores opening up. It’s more about building our culture. Each store has its own niche. Just as long as people realize what each of us has to offer, it just builds the whole city. I don’t mind at all.

Where does fashion fit in to hip-hop?

It’s just urban living. Hip-hop comes from the street and so does clothing.

Whenever I come by on Second Saturday, it’s always jumping off.

It’s a big showcase for the local arts scene. We try to show our local artists and our deejays that we sponsor as well. Let them play anything they want.

You changed the shop around. Are you constantly thinking about the future of the store?

Since the downsize, as far as vinyl sales, we’ve turned more into clothing. Since we moved the records out, we had more room for clothing. Just trying to clean it up. Every year we’re going to change it up a little bit. We’re starting to carry shoes and more brands that represent our store.

Who would you say shops here?

Midtown, I guess. People that find our brands in other cities that can’t really travel out there anymore.

Do the bookstore people next door ever get pissed off when you guys party?

No, actually, it’s a community here. We know each other down here. If they have a problem as far as our music, they’ll just let us know and we’ll turn it down. They never have. On Second Saturday it brings a crowd around here, because this is one of the hot spots.

Do you ever consider opening another store?

When the market was good, we considered opening up a sister store. We want so many brands that we can’t fit in one little spot. Another store would help.