March 25, 2013 is an exciting day for us, because today Mexicali Blues has been open for business in Maine for exactly 25 years! It all started in 1988, when Pete Erskine and Eric Lipkin opened a shop the size of a closet on Exchange Street in Portland, selling indigenous clothing and crafts Hoping to combine their love of travel with a way to fund these expeditions, they would travel to Mexico and Guatemala to meet the local artisans and pay them a fair wage for their wares, returning to share these eclectic products with the people of Portland.
Once they had a mission, they needed a name. They considered “Cancun Connection”, but that didn’t really seem to reflect the “groovy ethnic” vibe they had in mind. Pete enlisted the help of his brother, who corralled his fraternity brothers over lunch one day for a vote. Mexicali Blues was unanimously chosen, as it reflected both the energy of traveling and a favorite Grateful Dead song.
Here’s a picture of their very first four sales of opening day in 1988, with the very first customer being their friend Nancy. (Thanks, Nancy, for being the very first in a long line of amazing customers!)
Pete and Eric owned the small store together for a time, and it was on Pete’s birthday that a pretty girl named Kim came down to the shop looking for Eric. He wasn’t there, so Pete and Kim got to talking and he was immediately smitten. Although he had a huge party planned at his house, he said he had nothing to do on his birthday, and would she want to go out with him to celebrate? She did indeed, and so began a long and lovely relationship that eventually evolved into not only marriage and family, but a business partnership as well. When Eric decided to move on to other opportunities, Kim and Pete decided to run Mexicali Blues as a team.
Now they travel together, often with their three children, throughout the world to meet and build relationships with the artisans and families that create the merchandise we carry.
The vibe of the store has pretty much stayed the same as it was back in the day, although the product selection has definitely evolved and expanded, along with the size and the scope of the store. No longer limited to one tiny room, we now have six beautiful locations throughout Maine in Newcastle, Portland, Freeport, Bangor, and Raymond. These days, Mexicali has not only a great selection of tie dyes and other t-shirts but a vast supply of imported clothing for men, women, and the little ones, as well as accessories, jewelry, gifts, and housewares from all over the world. Our abundant selection of unique items, together with our knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, are what make Mexicali Blues a standout among import stores. To customers old and new, thank you for your continual support over the last 25 years!