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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nashua man offers state’s only legal graffiti wall at bike, skate, paint shop on Temple Street

Adam Brown is targeting a market largely made up of low-on-cash teens, trying to sell products that can only be used in sanctioned spots in the city.

Still, Streetwise Graffiti Bike & Skate, Brown’s 700-square-foot BMX bike, skate and graffiti paint store at 147 Temple St. has stayed afloat for 18 months now and only looks to grow. ...

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Adam Brown is targeting a market largely made up of low-on-cash teens, trying to sell products that can only be used in sanctioned spots in the city.

Still, Streetwise Graffiti Bike & Skate, Brown’s 700-square-foot BMX bike, skate and graffiti paint store at 147 Temple St. has stayed afloat for 18 months now and only looks to grow.

“I’m all self-taught, no schooling,” said Brown, 26, highlighting his experience in business, the sole owner and operator of his store. “I’d been painting five or six years and I started doing ‘bombs’ and ‘throw-ups,’ illegal kid stuff. … Then you progress to doing a real piece, but there’s not any good spots to do good pieces around here.”

“Bombs” and “throw-ups” are terms the graffiti world uses for beginners’ script that is plastered – usually illegally – on rocks and walls, benches and bridges, around towns and cities.

“People drive around town and see throw-ups and scribbles and they don’t know what it means,” Brown said of the misconceptions that graffiti is just a crime. “It’s a rush to do it illegally, but it’s all a process. There’s no easy way to get good. It’s repetition – doing the same things thousands of times.”

But now, after saving money for about five years working at a local dry cleaner, Brown has managed to open up a world of legal graffiti writing in New Hampshire, offering the state’s only “legal” graffiti wall off the side of his store.

The wall, 8 feet by 64 feet, is covered with more than 100 layers of paint and has featured the work of artists from around the region.

For the bike and skateboard side of business, Brown has developed contracts with wholesale accounts for skates, bikes and graffiti paint, which comes from Germany, Spain, China and Australia.

The competition for selling skateboard and bike equipment is small in Nashua, Brown said, and those products that Streetwise sells make up the biggest chunk of his sales.

The foreign graffiti paint sells for $5-$8, and is made up of brands that are thicker and less pressurized than American paint – which makes a difference when you’re designing a piece, he said.

“It’s very difficult,” Brown said of his business. “It’s all me. I saved all the money and opened up. I knew I wanted to open some kind of store, but I didn’t figure it out exactly until it dawned on me in Beverly.”

Beverly, Mass., is home to a 500-foot legal graffiti wall for writers who flock from around the country and internationally to share their craft and collaborate on graffiti productions.

Motivated by the famous graffiti writers Brown met there, he decided to bring his favorite pastime, and his favorite destination, closer to home and make a business out of it.

“A lot of guys come down from ‘Manch’ or up from Lowell,” said Brown, referring to the artists who write on his wall. “Nashua has a really small scene.”

Not only is the group of serious graffiti artists small in Nashua – a community of only about a dozen people, Brown said – the options for a legal graffiti wall are limited here.

“The thing about a legal wall is a lot of guys want it to be seen,” Brown said. “The city wants to stick us somewhere out by the dump where no one can see and no one will go. It has to be visible so people can drive by and see.”

Finding that space for the store and the legal wall was tough in the beginning, Brown said.

Not many landlords want graffiti writers using the side of their building.

And there aren’t many places in the city where writers can use the toxic neon paints without annoying neighbors.

“I like to do legal stuff like productions and piecing,” Brown said, using two more terms that refer to larger-scale, mural-style graffiti. “When you do productions, it’s endless. You just have ideas for days. … Now that I see vandalism around, I think it gives us a bad name, but that was me 10 years ago, so I can’t really say anything.”

Brown has his eye on several other places that would make good legal walls in Nashua – including the Taylor Falls or Veterans Memorial Bridge at the Hudson border, a bridge over the Exit 6 bridge off the F.E. Turnpike that was recently cleared of “throw-ups” by Nashua residents, and a retaining wall behind the David W. Deane Skateboard Park.

And Brown has found a couple of other public places to do his work legally, he said. Nashuans probably recognize the chicken busting out of Chicken n Chips and a piece outside of Twist-Tattoo, both of which are Brown’s.

Still, Manchester, the state’s largest city, has more people who take graffiti writing seriously and more space to paint, Brown said.

“It’s a small market, even though it’s a big community,” Brown said of Nashua. “Older people are definitely closed-minded, and people definitely think it’s gang stuff. But not one gang in New England paints graffiti … West Coast, yeah, they do, but it’s not even the same thing.”

Someday, Brown would like to open up a second store in Manchester, he said, or move his business there.

For now, to keep his business profitable, Brown works a part-time job at an Ecko Unlimited outlet in Merrimack when he’s not working at his store.

“The winter months it definitely comes to a screeching halt,” Brown said.

Not many people want to paint graffiti pieces outside when it’s freezing.

“I painted yesterday, but it definitely slows down big time,” Brown said.

Still, Brown keeps busy painting and repainting his legal wall, in the hopes of attracting more big-name artists from around the East Coast to write.

“The better we do out there, the better the pieces,” Brown said, “It’s harder and harder to buff them. But you’ve got to do it. You can’t get too sentimental.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached
at 594-6490 or mgill@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Gill
on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).