“MY WHOLE LIFE IS MEXICALI MOMENTS!” CARLY ERSKINE FINDS HER CAREER IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Today is Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day, a 24-year-old tradition that encourages parents to show kids the connection between meaningful work and more empowered, fulfilling lives. When you grow up in a family business, however, you don’t need a special day to make that connection—spending time with your parents at work is pretty much a daily thing. Carly Erskine, Pete and Kim’s middle child, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t hanging out at Mexicali Blues with brothers Chauncey and Caleb. “We used to hide in the circular clothing racks to jump out at customers,” Carly remembers, laughing.
When Carly was born, Mexicali Blues was growing as quickly as the Erskine family. “My mom always jokes that every time they added a baby to the family, they also added a store location to the family business,” Carly says. “The Newcastle store was mine!” She was still riding in a stroller when the family took their first buying trip to Asia and she followed her parents all over the world on school breaks. Mexicali Blues was her after-school hangout, it became her after-school job—and now that she’s graduated from college and started managing the Portland store, it has become her amazing career.
“For most people, Mexicali Blues is an awesome store where you find groovy clothes and accessories,” Carly explains. “For me, Mexicali Blues is where I found my calling.”
But of course, it’s also much more than that. Mexicali Blues is where Carly developed the confidence to take on the challenges that career presents. “Mexicali Blues is also where I grew up,” she says. “When I first started working in the store, I was terrible at it. In high school, I had to work in the stock room because I was too nervous to talk to customers. But I kept at it, and I tried all the different aspects of it—the web department, being a shift leader and being a buyer.”
The buying part is a big deal. Pete and Kim consider her feedback critical as they source fashions and accessories for younger customers. “The first time we took a buying trip that was just me and my dad, I was a sophomore in high school and he took me to Thailand,” she recalls. “And I was afraid of so many things. We’d be out walking in a market and if he stopped to look at anything, I’d crash right into him—I was following him that closely. But by the end of the trip I’d found my own footing. He could send me on errands by myself. And today, I know that he can send me anywhere in the world and I will find great fashions—and have fun.”
Carly chose to study fashion at the University of Rhode Island to further hone her instincts and develop her business experience. “My Mexicali experiences definitely inspired me to attend fashion school,” she says. “And it helped me study the industry without losing my personal sense of style. I was surrounded by students dressed in black, wearing high heels, carrying thousand-dollar handbags … and here comes Carly, rocking a turtleneck under a tide dye dress.”
She also credits Mexicali Blues with giving her a head start on some of the most pressing issues facing fashion today. “The search for a more sustainable fashion industry is really driving everything now,” Carly explains. “But we’ve been doing that since the beginning at Mexicali Blues! In fashion school, everyone was talking about knowing where your products are sourced. We don’t just know where our products come from! We know who makes them. Our vendors are like our extended family.”
Carly has also embraced the holistic, heartfelt approach to work that her parents modeled for their family. “Being so involved in the family business brought us closer as a family,” she says. “We grew up traveling to all these places and played in fabrics while my parents did business, and now my parents are my role models and my brothers are my best friends.”
You can see so much of Pete and Kim in Carly (the blond curls, the wide, mega-watt smile, the warmth that pulls everyone in), and you can see the impact Mexicali Blues has had on her life. You can also see the completely unique ways she has made that life her own.
“My whole life is Mexicali moments. I care about it. I like the products. I like the story and I can’t wait to help write new chapters. I could work somewhere else, but I love it here. Why would I want to do anything else?”
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