ReturnWe Were There - XIX: Montana Shop & Gallery, the First Flagship Location (2004)
The importance of the first hip-hop graffiti shops was fundamental to the development of the graffiti scene back in the 90s, as we explained earlier in the We Were There Saga. The evolution of the Montana brand also benefitted greatly from its presence in specialized shops.
BUNKER'S LEGACY AND GRAFFITI SHOPS
As well as being the direct distribution points for paint and related graffiti materials, they inevitably became into the main meeting points for writers. Most shops weren’t big enough to host social events, so meeting spaces were created outside the stores, on benches in nearby squares.
Graffiti writers had gone from meeting almost in secret - and adopting morally debatable methods to obtain paint - to being welcomed by stores that offered them all the material they needed. These places were initially opened by veteran writers or people who had a direct relationship with graffiti, like aficionados of other disciplines of hip-hop, that graffiti was universally linked to in its first period of expansion.
WHERE WRITERS WERE TREATED AS EQUALS
One of the main aspects of the new shops that visiting writers would appreciate is that they were treated first and foremost as a person, secondly as a customer and eventually as a friend. Gone were the days of being subjected to the suspicious glances of the DIY shop assistants, or worse, being treated as a thief right off the bat. The supplies you wanted to buy were now on display, not behind bars, in cages or hidden away from writers.
Another great contribution of the graffiti stores was the fact that the writers themselves could sell their creations, like apparel and magazines, to the new graffiti market. Previously having to sell wares individually to friends, the budding designers and entrepreneurs had legitimate outlets to showcase their creations.
THE RETURN TO THE TRADITIONAL SHOP
Originally known as Game Over Shop, Bunker was the first specialized graffiti store to open in Spain and was the de facto Montana Colors flagship store for many years. It was the main connection point with the scene, and the followers of the brand knew that this was the place to find out graffiti news and buy products fresh from the Montana Colors factory.
However, by the late 1990s, the Bunker Store had to stop selling spray paint due to regulatory issues. An improvised solution was found, by passing the aerosols to a traditional paint store just around the corner. The idea seemed good on paper, customers could keep visiting Bunker for everything else and buy the Montana cans at that paint store.
NO WAY TO TREAT WRITERS
This new arrangement generated a setback, especially in customer service. A lack of trust greeted anyone asking for spray paint. They were thought of potential criminals and treated as such. Montana Colors could not allow the premium reseller in its hometown to foster these conditions, and so the idea of creating its own Montana Flagship Location naturally arose.
The fire in 2002 and the legal battles over the name that began in 2001 delayed the project, which ended up taking a few years to materialize. But it was worth the wait. In 2004, the first Montana Shop & Gallery was inaugurated, located in a Barcelona neighborhood rich in graffiti and street art activity - El Born.
LA MONTANA SHOP, A WRITER’S HOME FROM HOME
It was the perfect space for the graffiti community. Now detached from the other disciplines of hip-hop culture, the Montana Shop carried materials for graffiti and its nascent derivatives. The full range of products from the Montana brand were available, as well as prodcuce from companies that Montana now had a good relationship with: magazines, books, clothing, and markers. A hallmark innovation was part of the project from the very start: an art gallery-style exhibition space, for writers and street artists who had studio work for sale. Although including an exhibition space inside a store was not a new idea that had been a feature for years at independent urban retailers like sneaker stores and hip-hop spots, it was the first gallery of graffiti in Barcelona.
OS GEMEOS OPEN THE FIRST SHOW
The first exhibition had to showcase work that represented the brand’s close relationship with graffiti, a Os Gemeos were the perfect fit. The brothers from Brazil once again were decisive in a monumental moment for Montana Colors.
ShareMarch 12, 2021