Sunshine Daydreams, Psychedelic School Buses, Mexicali Blues
In the beginning, Mexicali Blues was just an eclectic Central American import store named after a Grateful Dead song but–they didn’t sell any Grateful Dead merchandise. The name was there, the spirit was there and the proverbial seed had been planted, but Mexicali co-founders Eric and Pete weren’t sure they wanted to dead-icate Mexicali in that way.
“It was a huge deal, we discussed it for weeks,” says Pete, “we didn’t want to take away from the international import aspect, but in the end we decided to try it out and do both.”
Eric and Pete started out by dipping their toes in with stickers, including the classic Steal Your Face and Dancing Bears graphics. “As soon as we did that, it got way groovy,” says Pete, “people started coming in with their dogs and having drum circles. It was just a hangout listening to the Dead and jamming out.”
“It really became a hub, in fact, and during the height of all of this, we got broken into. The police called, they saw someone running down the street with a bunch of merchandise… Honestly, I was impressed, they came in and went through the store with a fine tooth comb. There were so many cops there and they looked through everything. A year later, a bunch of businesses (in Portland) got broken into and they barely even checked us out. In retrospect, I think they might have been looking for something else.”
From there, Mexicali Blues moved on to classic Grateful Dead tees, tie dyes, patches, and limited copies of the much sought after Golden Road magazine. In hindsight, this may have been the best business move they ever made.
People started coming from all over the northeast and beyond to trade bootleg tapes, hackysack, hitch rides, jam out, and catch vibes. “This connected us to this national network of entrepreneurs who sold stuff from all over the world. They brought the Shakedown Street (the vending area outside of a concert) to us in Maine, people lived that vagabond lifestyle and they would make money to go on tour, travel, buy stuff, sell it, then go back on tour (with the Grateful Dead).”
Pete and Kim will never forget one psychedelic school bus with stained glass windows that pulled up outside of the store as they were closing. “You walked into the bus where kids get in, shopped your way down, and paid at the emergency exit,” remembers Kim. “This was one of the first experiences that exposed us to international wares, all of a sudden we were selling stuff from Africa, the Middle East, India, Nepal, and all over Asia, whatever groovy things people had.”
Little did Pete and Kim know that this dead-ication would soon lead their family all the way to the other side of the world and that they would soon be bringing back their very own groovy goods from Asia to Maine by way of the Mexicali Blues…