Celebrating their one year anniversary in Taos, apparel and graphics store Guerrilla Graphix have a few tricks up their sleeve to building a successful business in Taos.
The store began in Albuquerque in 2008, brainchild of owner Travis Parkin, as a way to market a different type of logo that incorporates a more free-thinking aspect to the retail world, using themes of New Mexico pop culture and various figures throughout history. "We decided we would be a little more edgy with our products," Parkin said in a recent interview, smiling.
The shop also does a wide array of printing and graphic design and has even brought in some wholesale buyers. Over the years, the Guerrilla family has adapted to several changes within the company including the expansion to Taos, where Parkin says the store is thriving on Paseo del Pueblo Sur, the main drag through town. Guerrilla Graphix currently holds their Taos location along with their Albuquerque location and "basecamp" in Albuquerque, where much of their printing and design is done.
From slogans advocating the legalization of marijuana to celebrating marriage equality, there is certainly something unique about the products in Guerrilla Graphix, however the T-shirts and designs are only a fraction of what makes the company unique.
Amidst the Taos living wage struggle, Parkin has decided to place himself ahead of the curve and increase the starting wage for those working at his business. Trainees at Guerrilla Graphix make $12 per hour while they are training and are bumped to $13 per hour once they have completed their initial entry phase. This is in addition to profit sharing, which Parkin has decided to add to the benefits of working at the store. Employees at the Taos location are encouraged to sell up to $600 of merchandise per day as that is the relative cost to keep the business open every day, Parkin said. However, after that $600, employees share 10 percent of all the profits made in the store. The reason for this is simple - Parkin says he just wants to be fair and treat his employees right.
"We treat them well so they treat our customers well," he said. "I want people to be happy in their jobs and be motivated to sell."
Parkin had a variety of experiences with different types of bosses before launching his own business. He wanted to continue the practices of those bosses who treated him well as an employee. Now he pays that same ethic forward to his employees. While already compensating his employees higher than the state and local minimum, Parkins also provides a small lunch stipend for those working under him to ensure they are able to grab food during their breaks.
In addition to all of this, Parkins said he is looking to provide insurance benefits to his employees in the future.
While bringing on new employees can often be costly and time consuming in training, Parkin takes these lengths to make sure his employees work in a fun, safe and respectful work environment. Often, his employees stay long-term, for several years, with the company and are allowed to move up with responsibility and pay.
"We hate to lay people off," Parkin said. "I don't sleep for two or three days after I have to fire someone."
Guerrilla Graphix currently has 13 employees at all three locations, half full-time and half part-time. Parkins said he has let go of two employees at the Taos store since it opened a year ago.
"It started off as a better job than the pizzeria I was working at," said Graphix designer Isa Stewart. "This exists because of the work that we do. None of us ever thought we would be where we are today."
Stewart has been with the company since 2014 and even helped open the Taos location the previous year.
Parkins said he tries to maintain a trusting environment with his employees and encourages them to come to him with issues or suggestions whenever possible. The company will be looking at bringing on some extra holiday work and those interested in joining the Guerrilla team are encouraged to stop in and inquire.