Labor Day Love: Celebrating the Mexicali Blues Crew

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“You treat other people right, other people probably treat you cool.” —Grateful Dead

Labor Day weekend is much more than an extra day off. It’s a celebration of the amazing contributions people can make when they are treated well during their dayson. And while many of us are enjoying an extended weekend, many members of the Mexicali Blues team are totally on right now: fulfilling orders, stocking shelves and helping a crush of customers find the perfect tie dye tee, yoga pants or dorm room tapestry.

Our staff really steps up on big shopping days like today. And they love it!  Running a successful retail business is hard work (and it requires working on a few holidays and weekends). But at Mexicali Blues, it’s also rewarding—and fun.

“We are happily committed to providing a positive, productive and fulfilling work experience for our employees here in Maine, as well as those we employ abroad,” explains co-founder Pete Erskine. “When I say I want to work with people who are smiling, I mean it.”

“In Maine, we provide health insurance, paid time off and a generous company discount,” he continues. “And unlike lots of companies, we really encourage our team to travel. Just this summer, members of the Mexicali Blues team went on extended trips to Guatemala and New Zealand!”

“And when we are stocking our stores abroad, we always support local artisans and businesses which are either Fair Trade certified or who provide fair wages, good working environments and never use child labor,” Kim Erskine, co-founder, adds.

Mexicali Blues is also committed to promoting internally and to providing growth opportunities for employees. “Why should your job be less than you are?Jerry Garcia once asked. “If your contribution can be greater, then what we’ll do is invent a reason for it to be greater.” In an industry known for high turnover rates, we give people a reason to stay—and to shine. Some of our employees have been with us over 13 years!

We know that the warm, welcoming atmosphere in our stores is created by the talented and dedicated people who work there. We are blown away, every single day, by the passion this team brings to creating magical store environments and fantastic shopping experiences. We’re inspired by their commitment to supporting worthy causes in their communities. This is a family-owned business, and it feels like a family.

“Our business is successful because of all the hard work, fun and teamwork of our great staff,” adds Kim Erskine. “We truly appreciate it.”

If you are looking for a job that makes you smile—and that encourages you to succeed—talk to a manager or employee at any Mexicali Blues location. We’re a really happy place to work, and we’re hiring!

Mexicali Killer Tie Dyes: A Party for the Eyes

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Meet Mike, the amazingly skilled creator of our killer tie dyes! These unique dyes are more intricately patterned and boldly colorful than any others we’ve ever seen (and we’ve been digging tie dye for a good long while!), so we were stoked when he recently came to replenish our stock of these terrific tees!

One happy customer said, “I’ve had Mikes shirts for 28 years haven’t faded. Best dye art on earth!” That’s a compliment on his craft that can’t be beat!  

Get yours here: http://ow.ly/U2bU303CVfm

“It’s Wonderful To Have Friends Who Are Such Good Travelers!” Yogi Adele Gale Shares her #MexicaliMoment

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Everyone has their own #MexicaliMoment—the time they realized what Mexicali was all about, the time when they found their place in the Mexicali Tribe. Gifted yogi Adele Gale, a longtime friend of Pete and Kim Erskine, shares hers below.

When we pitched the Mexicali Blues yurt at our Newcastle store a few weeks ago, one of the standout sessions was the yoga and sound meditation class with Adele Gale of Midcoast Yoga Shala. A gifted yogi with more than 30 years experience, Adele worked as Sheryl Crow’s personal yoga instructor as well as with other artists on the Lilith Fair Tour. Her lifelong study of yoga lets her share such serenity and strength with her students.

“I’ve known Pete and Kim over 15 years,” Adele explains. “A local friend was helping me get oriented after we moved to Maine, and she took me to Mexicali Blues right away. She kept telling me that I needed to get to know Pete and Kim. She knew we’d have a connection. And from our first conversation, I knew she was right.”

Adele’s young children became close to the Erskine’s three kids, and the families had great times together as their children grew. Adele’s yoga practice and expertise were growing, too. “It was great to have Mexicali Blues close by,” she explains. “I’m always wearing Mexicali Blues clothes—tees, loose leggings, skirts—because I’m always lounging or upside down! And everything is so comfortable, easy to move in, and washable—and uses all natural fibers.”

Two years ago Pete and Kim invited Adele and her husband to travel to Nepal to celebrate Pete’s 50th birthday at Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalayas, by the Lake City of Pokhara. “I’d never been to Nepal,” Adele remembers. “Pete met us right at the airport and helped us navigate the craziness of it all. He got us oriented and feeling right at home.”

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“It’s awesome to travel with people who take things as they come, who are flexible and open to the experience,” Adele says. “That’s Pete and Kim. They don’t do packaged luxury experiences. They stay close to communities. They stay authentic.”

They also convince you to jump off a cliff … and fly. “We drove to the top of a mountain in Pokhara, strapped ourselves in tandem to a paraglider, and ran full-tilt off of a cliff,” Adele recalls, laughing. “We flew over these breathtaking vistas for an entire hour. It was incredible. And I realized—this is what it’s all about for Pete and Kim. This whole business that they’ve built is about spending time with the people they care about having unique and unforgettable experiences. It’s wonderful to have friends that are such good travelers. And that’s my Mexicali Moment.”

“It’s a Treasure Chest of My Life.” Chris Cummings Shares his #MexicaliMoment

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

—Chris Cummings

A Suit and Tie-Dye Kind of Guy: Mexicali Blues CEO Topher Mallory and His #365TieDye Challenge

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Here’s the thing about Mexicali Blues CEO Topher Mallory: he’s a really easygoing guy who drives really hard at his goals. On his boat or in the boardroom, he has everyone smiling—and everyone stepping up their game—with keen insight, positive energy and boundless optimism. He’s all in, all the time, and it’s awesome.

He’s also always wearing tie dye.

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Every December, Topher chooses a personal challenge for the coming year. In 2015, he practiced daily meditation. In 2014, he read a book about business each month.  This year, he decided to wear something tie-dyed every single day for a full year.

“You have to be able to see the tie dye whenever you see me,” Topher explains. “No cheating with tie dye boxer shorts or socks. Bold, brilliant tie dye. No matter where I am or what I’m doing in 2016, I’m wearing tie dye while I do it.” 

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Skiing with his wife and young daughter. Speaking at a national omnichannel conference. Checking in at Mexicali store locations. Building Maine’s first organic distillery. #365TieDye all the way.

So … why, exactly? “So many reasons!” he says enthusiastically. “First, it’s just beautiful. I love looking at tie dye. It’s like a wearable screensaver that sucks you in. My degree is in art, and I can never have enough color and pattern in my life. Tie dye reminds me to look longer and deeper at this amazing world we live in.”

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He’s also passionate about the craftsmanship behind the pieces he wears. Mexicali Blues tie dye clothing and accessories are handcrafted using artisanal methods, often with a modern twist.

“One of my favorite patterns is Blues Burst. It’s like … a summer day on the Damariscotta River, or the coldest, clearest sky over Sugarloaf,” he says. “They’re handmade by a local clammer, an old friend of Mexicali. And do you know how he gets such intricate, tight color patterns? He hand sews each piece with dental floss before he begins the dying process. I think that’s amazing!”

But he has other reasons, too. “It’s about putting my real self out there,” he explains. “I spend so much of my job thinking about branding, about what Mexicali Blues means. This is one way to show right away—in a way you can’t miss!—what Mexicali Blues means to me.”

That isn’t always easy to do. The biggest challenge? Recent speaking engagements at the Retail Across America: Small Business Learning Lab and The Retail Pro U.S. Retail Summit. “I was really nervous—not just about speaking in front of so many skilled marketers and entrepreneurs, but about what I was wearing,” he remembers. “Everyone’s in button down shirts under their suit jackets, right? And I’ve got a Reverse Burst Killer Tie Dye Tee under mine.”

Would they take him seriously? Would they get it? As it turns out, yeah. Topher’s talks about authentic approaches to business work because he’s not just talking about it, he’s living it.

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And here’s the third reason for #365TieDye—its amazing effect on other people.

“Everyone smiles when you’re wearing tie dye,” Topher says. “People feel comfortable right away, they come up and talk. It’s great. Pete Erskine is always talking about how he wants to be working with people who are smiling. Wearing tie dye every day definitely makes that happen.”

You can follow Topher’s #365TieDye on Twitter, and you can shop some of his personal favorite tie dye patterns and pieces below: