Everyone who works at Mexicali Blues has their own #MexicaliMoment—the time they realized what Mexicali was all about, the time when they found their place in the Mexicali Tribe. Regional Manager Chris Cummings shares his below!
You know Mexicali Blues is named for Grateful Dead lyrics, right? Well, last year I was able to go to Chicago for the final Fare Thee Well show, a reunion concert celebrating the Dead’s 50th anniversary. We’re sharing a lot of live music this summer at Mexicali Blues, and I hope everyone who wins tickets has the kind of experience I had at that show. I was there to see the band, to see old friends, to relive great memories and make new ones. It was all of that—and more.
The moment that really stands out to me happened during an intermission in the set. I was sitting with my friends watching an enormous screen where a slideshow of images from Grateful Dead history were flickering above us. And suddenly, the photo on the screen was of a Mexicali Blues sticker on a tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirt! A huge Mexicali Blues sticker and tee hanging over Soldier Field. My friends and I, we couldn’t believe it! That was our history up there on that screen. Mexicali Blues was our place! We were hugging each other, laughing, it was so incredible and so emotional.
I mean, I’ve been hanging out at Mexicali Blues since I was a kid. The Old Port shop was located further up Exchange Street back then, and I discovered it when I was about 12. I hadn’t really figured anything out yet about my life or what I wanted. But I was so drawn to that store.
It was colorful. It smelled wonderful. It was filled with things from all over the world, stuff I’d never seen before but couldn’t wait to explore. It was like a treasure chest of my life.
And everyone I ever met there was so nice to me. They were a really diverse group, too. Friends of Pete Erskine, the shop owner. Young and old, girls and guys. Doctors, farmers, Deadheads. They let me dig around in the music t-shirts, play with the hacky sacks, listen and learn. I went there all the time and every time, I felt like I’d been welcomed home.
So here’s another #MexicaliMoment. Pete didn’t know my name or my story. He just knew I was a kid who liked being in his store. He turned to me one busy afternoon and he asked me if I would take a ten dollar bill to the bank and get quarters for the till. I couldn’t believe he trusted me to do that. I flew out that door! I felt like at that moment, I’d been given my very own place in the Mexicali Tribe.
Making that change was the beginning of my Mexicali Blues career. I worked in the store every summer, over breaks and holidays. I moved to the Pacific Northwest for college and stayed out there for several years after, but when I came back to Maine I knew I was also coming back to Mexicali. It still feels like home.
My job is to give our customers the same feeling I had in the store all those years ago. And we do! Being a regional manager means I get to spend time in several Mexicali Blues stores. And at every one, I see little babies spark up and start smiling the moment they’re carried in, because all their senses are engaged. I watch people digging around in the music t-shirts, tossing hacky sacks, taking in the vibes, the colors and smells, the music. It’s awesome.
When I saw that Mexicali Blues sticker on the screen at Soldier Field, I remembered why this store and everyone in it mean so much to me. It’s still the treasure chest of my life.