James Gang moves back to where it all started on Newport
Published - 11/08/17 - 03:01 PM | 4502 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of Ocean Beach's bedrock businesses, James Gang Co. print shop and silk screening, is in mid-move from 1931 Bacon St. at Santa Monica to 4851 Newport Ave. on the beach town's main drag.

“What we're shooting for is to be out of the old site and up and running in the new on Nov. 15,” said Paul Bearce, current co-owner of the 41-year-old printer renowned for its custom T-shirt designs inspired by Ocean Beach’s unique retro style and local attractions such as the fishing pier and Dog Beach.

“There were a number of little things that factored in,” said Bearce of his company's move, adding, “We're excited to be back on Newport Avenue after 26 years.”

Bearce said plans are for James Gang to have a soft opening on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, and a grand opening on OB's Christmas Parade Day on Saturday, Dec. 2.

Early signs at the new Newport Avenue locale are encouraging.

“We can see already foot-traffic encouragement from the community, which has been overwhelming,” Bearce said. “Everyone is happy that the James Gang is back on Newport Avenue.”

Of their new space, Bearce commented, “It's a little smaller, a little different configuration.” He added, though, that after more than quarter-century at the old site, it was time to do some house cleaning and rearranging.

James Gang initially started above the mini-mart on Newport, before moving to where Mallory's Furniture is now a year later. In the early '90s, the printer moved to Bacon Street.

Ironically, where James Gang is moving to, the old O.B. Hookah Lounge, is located right across the street from the proposed new Target Express store. Strident community opposition to Target coming in and potentially displacing local mom-and-pops, led to James Gang Co. printers recent recruitment to produce $10 “No Target in OB” T-shirts, which are being sold at the print shop, as well as at the James Gang's booth during the weekly Farmers Market on Wednesdays.

The James Gang printers was started in Ocean Beach in 1976 by the three eldest brothers, Ron, Rich and Greg, as an offshoot of a small public relations and advertising agency Ron had begun earlier with a partner. Initially called First Impressions, the company's focus gradually evolved from photo work into T-shirt screen printing.

Over time, the James Gang's business grew and changed. Offset printing operations were added in 1990 after expanding into the Bacon Street location.

From the outset, James Gang was hands-on with civic involvement, participating in a merchant-led effort to revitalize the beach community's business district. The James brothers in fact were instrumental in starting such OB staples as the Christmas Parade.

the Fourth of July Community Fireworks Show and the OB Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off. They were a driving force in Ocean Beach in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond.

James Gang attached its name to the Fourth of July Fireworks Festival around 1980, when the display was on the verge of fizzling. Proceeds from the sale of James Gang-printed T-shirts produced enough funds to keep the fireworks show sizzling for years to come.

But the brothers didn't stop there. The trio, after a few drinks, also decided in 1980 to place a large Christmas tree on the beach at the foot of Newport Avenue, beginning a longstanding community tradition.

"The more we drank the taller the tree got,” commented brother Ron James. “Our first tree from Mount Shasta was 70 feet tall.” Ron's sibling, Rich, transported the inaugural community Christmas tree, whose purchase was again funded by T-shirt sales, to Ocean Beach in a donated truck.

Bearce said it's important for the community in these rapidly changing times to maintain its solidarity. He admonished Obecians to “invest in your community, support local businesses, shop local. Help keep OB OB.”

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