A few years back (a little more than five, actually), we gave a small shout to the man, mystery, and magic that is Corey Bullough. At the time, he'd recently commissioned Retna and El Mac to create the beautiful, 44-foot virgin that lives on the east wall of the FICE building, and we had to applaud the effort (read here, if you'd like). Even then, we were crazy about FICE…it's just taken us an unexpected minute to catch our breath, get our asses into the shop, and give these people the proper interview and full-blown standing ovation that they deserve.
It shouldn't be news to anyone that FICE is, to be brief, the shit. It's been around for a minute now, and it's become something of a Salt Lake staple for those who want the limited edition sneaks you'd have to otherwise find in New York or L.A. The shop came to be through the combined efforts of Corey Bullough and Laura Hadar. In her words, "two dreamers collided in an environment that was ripe with opportunity." And according to Corey, "I hate (strongly dislike) the mall." The list of "what we like" about FICE is long, but rounding out the top is a the obvious love for and willingness to support the local art scene. The Virgin was just the start. These days, the alley that runs parallel to the shop is all but capped--a gallery in and of itself. Add to that the fact that the interior of FICE is an actual gallery…one that is, in fact, booked out about a year in advance. According to Corey, "I love art shows. I think they're the mortar that holds our business together, and it's super refreshing to completely change the aesthetic every month. Plus, it's just a great time getting together with a different group of humans every month to celebrate someone's work. Gallery stroll is the 3rd Friday of every month…we tend to get the later crowd--from 8 to 11-ish--and you/yours are always welcome. Don't be afraid to bring some PBR and/or a bottle of tequila."
Once a wee start-up ourselves, we have a certain bleeding-heart affinity for those businesses that pull the ol' bootstrap routine and start from scratch, but we're not the only ones with forever feelings about this shop. Like most good things, FICE has a cult following by those in the know (and when limited edition Nikes drop, those sneaker lines are no joke). They're serving rad brands and outstanding local art with a smile--it's NYC steeze meets SLC heart. Now, introductions aside, let's get you two acquainted, already...
You have both been in and out of SLC (New York, Portland, etc.) over the years. What do you actually think of our state? And do you imagine it will always serve as at least one of your home bases? Corey: I love Utah, and it will definitely always be my home base. I spent most of my 20s doing seasonal work in places like Yellowstone or ski resorts in Colorado, etc. After settling down in Utah and opening the shop, I soon realized that I still had the travel bug, so I started going to Brooklyn in the summer. I've been doing it for about 6 years now, and I've earned a great job in a beer garden. I love the hard work/play mentality that comes along with restaurant life, I love Brooklyn…it's my grown up version of summer camp. I work my ass off, ride my bicycle everywhere, go to art shows and museums, take photos, go for walks, and meet great new humans. Then I try to bring that inspiration back to the salty city. Laura: I've traveled the world, and I'm convinced there is nothing like SLC out there. The access to the outdoors is unparalleled. Seriously, nothing else like it in the world. But my favorite part is the fact that Salt Lake seems like a community of people rather than a city of strangers. It will always be my favorite city.
Three most descriptive words for your shop. Laura: Bold, unique, friendly. Corey: Metaphorical pizza party.
We did a (very brief) shout right after you guys had el Mac and Retna create the virgin on your massive, south wall. Did the piece change anything for FICE? Or the city, in your minds? Corey: Not really. I’m sure it's brought some people in, but for the most part, I think the general public doesn't associate us with it, which is perfect. It was never intended to be ours. It’s a gift to the city, and I hope she’s there long after we’re gone. Hopefully, she’ll inspire and lift some people up along the way. Although, we may have provided a new space for some public art, street art was here before us and will be around long after. Laura: It's a landmark piece. I think it might have helped open up the idea that street art can be a valued piece of the community. It seems like more empty walls started to get filled after the virgin went up.
Virgin aside (no disrespect intended), your outside walls are covered in art from a can. Do you see this as an extension of the gallery inside? Do you culture it, or does it happen with/without you? Corey: Absolutely. Our back courtyard is my dojo. It's been cool to watch it go from a virtually-untouched alleyway/courtyard to a hub for city art. Most of it I curate, other pieces, small tags, and stickers just show up...we like to keep it constantly rotating and changing. It's an absolute honor to have helped create a space for people to come and shoot photos, videos, or just just hang out and absorb the art. Our alley/courtyard is always available to YOU (unless you work for the mall, then you gotta pay the piper to shoot photos).
Tell me about the artists in the shop, too. How do you find them? Corey: Just around town, I guess. Sometimes people reach out to us, (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I've kind of had a rough list in my head since we opened, so every year we check 8-10 off of that. We stay booked out about a year with the gallery, although I like to leave a few months open every year for fundraisers or group shows. Also, maybe once a year, we'll put together a group or solo show with out of state/international artists. //Gallery stroll is the 3rd Friday of every month…we tend to get the later crowd--from 8 to 11-ish--and you/yours are always welcome. Don't be afraid to bring some PBR and/or a bottle of tequila.)
Let's talk clothes. Are there particular lines you're carrying that we should shout about, or that may be tough to find elsewhere in SLC? Laura: I'm a huge fan of 10deep and Staple…two brands from New York that have always been on the forefront of street wear style and trends. They pay attention to details, and have amazing, unique prints. Corey: In the streetwear/sneaker world, it's all about limited edition, small collaborations, and exclusive products, which Salt Lake has an ever-growing appetite for. A lot of things we get at the shop immediately sell out in bigger cites, so it's always cool to see someone come in from a bigger city and freak out about all the cool shit we've still got on the racks. Most of our brands refuse to be sold in malls or big box stores. It's been cool to see how the different brands attract different customers and how they evolved over the years. Our bigger brands, like Nike/Vans/Asics, do a great job of providing limited edition products to "top tier" shops like ours.
Give us your take on design…as shop owners and individuals with homes (rented or purchased). Laura: I would say, for me, it's modern meets vintage. We love all our original features at the shop, like the hardwood floors or the tiling in the entryway. At my house, it's a bit of the same. Original, hardwood floors and some more modern features. We did concrete counter tops with vintage appliances. I got my stove and fridge off KSL, specifically looking for old gear. Corey: I’m kind of a minimalist. I’ve always been heavily influenced by industrial design and decay, and I try to incorporate and bring the things that inspire me from bigger/older cities into both my work and home.
Where do you think our city can improve? Like, really…what's the shit we all need to get into to make this place great? Corey: Support local artists. I can't stress this enough. BUY ART FROM LOCAL ARTISTS! Ride your bike more, recycle your glass, throw your t.v. away, and get into these amazing mountains that surround us. Laura: Two words: AIR QUALITY.
What can cityhomeCOLLECTIVE do to help you guys out? Tell us. Now. Corey: Continue doing the awesome things that you have been doing for our community. And/or take us out for pizza. Laura: Come by our shop when you or your loved ones need new sneakers! We always love finding just the right fit for our friends, family, and neighbors.
FICE Gallery | 160 East 200 South | 801.364.4722