The more I talk to the artists, the business owners…the movers and shakers IN Wilmington, the more I have come to understand that they are never just one thing. A foundational element in Wilmington’s vibrancy seems to be the amount of crossover that these key players have over multiple disciplines. Wilmington isn’t just about who you know (though that is a part of it); it is about how you can relate what you are doing with what others are doing and generate synergy. These threads create a web. Take David Sanchez of Spaceboy Clothing. He is business owner, artist, graphic designer, and musician. All these parts of him go into his business, Spaceboy Clothing, that he runs with partner Noah Merenda. But in talking to Sanchez, he will let you in on a little secret. The Market Street shop is a bit of a front, Clark Kent hiding his superpowers behind nerdy glasses.
“We’re a cool T-shirt shop. That is what we do to pay the bills and survive. The music and the comedy, the events we host…trying to be part of the community and collaborate and include the public. That is the fun part.”
It’s true. Over several incarnations in multiple Market Street locations, the cool T-shirt shop has also been an emporium for collectibles, art gallery, event space, small concert venue, and comedy club.
Here is another secret—in the early days of Spaceboy, Sanchez was dead set against moving the business from their initial Elsmere location to Market Street when they were approached by real estate developers. Not just a “no”, a “Hell, no.” But Buccini Pollin Group didn’t take “Hell, no” for an answer. They could see the kind of creative currency that a Spaceboy storefront would bring to the block.
“One of the guys from Buccini…he was very persistent. He kept checking in with us over and over again. Took a whole year and finally we were like ‘Okay. Cool. Let’s do it.’ They gave us a deal on rent and fitted out a space for us. Kinda stuck us in there. I think it has been great. It is where we belong.”
Sanchez credits the forward thinking from organizations such as Buccini Pollin Group and Downtown Visions with the revitalization that he has witnessed in the downtown over the last decade or so.
“We’ve been in Wilmington on Market Street since 2011, and it has grown so much I’ve noticed. It is just like black and white. Total transformation. And It is only going to get better from here. We’ve just had little delay.”
A little delay. Here, we must acknowledge the hardship that 2020 has been for small businesses on Market Street. For Spaceboy, it was a quadruple whammy: COVID kept people away from shopping in person, they had to postpone opening their new event space, many of the festivals/events for which Spaceboy makes T-shirts were canceled, and then, an instance of rioting during otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protests, put fear into business owners and customers alike.
“This year was struggle and a disappointment, but at the same time, we learned a lot. It made us stronger. Seeing our neighbors, all these other businesses—restaurants, for instance, that are feeling it a lot more than us–seeing everybody pull together opened my eyes to a lot of things that I never really paid attention to or appreciated. COVID and all that aside, just made me a better businessman, better all-around person.
“I am so appreciative of our clients and customers and everyone who supported our business over the years and especially over the last six months. I know that we are competing a lot with online. Small businesses are struggling, so around the holidays, especially, we should all be a more conscientious of how we spend our money. I am just appreciative of the community.”
In spite of the hardships of the past year, Sanchez is hopeful. As far as he is concerned, 2021 holds a lot of promise: the vaccine for COVID, Biden’s election. He feels that things will turn around.
“Biden getting elected brings a whole new light to the city. We’ve had more interest. We’ve had some Biden merch for sale. It brought us back to life. Lot more out-of-towners. A lot more visitors. People are stopping through. One guy came from New York…he was like ‘Dude, I feel like I’m in the East Village right now.’”
The East Village wishes.
In a lightenINg round of questions, I asked Sanchez to give me some INsights into the WilmINgton scene as he sees it.
Favorite restaurants INWilmington?
My go-to restaurants are mostly Chelsea Tavern and Kid Shaleens. Chelsea has the best nachos in town and Kid Shaleens has really good food, breakfast and brunch.
Favorite Wilmington spots for live music?
I’m an Oddity Bar Guy. I’m close friends with the owner there. There is that little corner where Oddity Bar and 1984… they were connected, and you could just hop back and forth. With my musical background, I was in that scene. That was my spot.
Favorite places #inWilm for cocktails?
I enjoy Bardea. I like their vibe. Their cocktails are pretty great.
Favorite visual artists #inWilm?
I really enjoy Dennis Beach. He is a neighbor of ours. I really like his stuff. His art is innovative; he’s always doing cool new things. He is really nice guy too. I’m into bright colors and shapes and stuff like that.
Favorite musicians #inWilm?
I respect and like a lot of musicians in Wilmington. I don’t even want to name one, because I appreciate all of them. Wilmington is small. They are all needed. I noticed in the year or so leading up to COVID (Before everything shut down) that the music scene was on the rise. It was doing really well. I would frequent the Oddity Bar and there were always consistently good music and bands popping up all over the place. I am in a band here, too. People were wanting to book us. [Sanchez’s punk/rock band is called Crafting] And I was always meeting these out-of-town bands. They wanted to stop in Wilmington, and they wanted to play, because of the reputation and the other musicians we have here. I think Wilmington has a lot of potential.
Favorite community organizations or non-profits #inWilm?
We have a client Fouryouth Productions. They are a husband-and-wife team. [Theresa Emmett and Raphael Dahan] They bring kids in and teach them photography and teach them cool tech stuff. It’s awesome, mostly art-based and its great. We’ve worked with them over the years.
Favorite “hidden gem” #inWilm?
Not exactly in Wilmington but there is bangin’ taco shop in Newport called Kukurukoo Express. They make, in my opinion, the best tacos in North Delaware. It’s authentic Mexican. The food is legit. It is so good.
Favorite event #inWilm?
I don’t really have a favorite event. You know, I think the more events you can do in the city, the better.