Monday, 18 October 2021

Altered Native

 1997 was shaping up to be a monumental year. I was creating art, making music, reuniting with friends, & working my “dream job” at HMV records. In my spare time when I was alone you could find me playing WCW vs. The World on playstation, as that was the newest and hottest wrestling video game to come out at the time.  Wu-Tang Clan had also released their second full length album that year entitled “Wu-Tang Forever” and that was pretty much the soundtrack of 1997 for me. 

Shayne and his family had moved up to Orangeville so I took a trip up there with a friend one day to visit them and catch up. Turns out Shayne was making plans to open a small head shop in the town of Orangeville, and he already had the wheels in motion. It was very cool and exciting to see my friend going out on a limb and taking a leap of faith on what could possibly be a major career for him.

Before I knew it Shayne already had a location and had already started painting the place, acquiring stock, and getting things set up. I spent a day there with him and his mother Amber, and we painted some incense burners that he would be selling. 

Being a stranger in a strange town Shayne did not want to gamble on locals he didn’t know and couldn’t trust to work for him, so I offered to work weekends for him devoid of pay to help him out and give him a bit of a break. Being the stand up guy that he is, he offered to pay me in product as he felt bad about me working for free, and that agreement was absolutely fine with me. 

The shop officially opened in October of 1997, and although I was still working weekdays at HMV in Toronto, my weekends would now be spent in Orangeville. Thankfully my girlfriend Jenny was gracious enough to drive me there and pick me up each weekend, but that soon came to an end as we decided to mutually part ways, as our lives were going in separate directions and we weren’t getting to spend much time together anymore. 

Shayne ended up naming the shop “The Altered Native” which was a nod to our circle of friends, as we always used to pronounce the word “alternative” in two parts, Alter-native. It was merely a simple and funny play on the word that amused us, but he was now taking it to the next level. I helped out and designed a logo for him, which he put on business card sized stickers with the shop’s information, and proceeded to commence “operation guerrilla marketing tactics” which consisted of sticking these things everywhere and anywhere, with fast food drive-throughs  being the main target as they saw so much traffic on a daily basis.  

The shop was small and quaint, and he started off mainly selling incense, burners, smoking accessories, and t-shirts. We had a lot of friends in bands at the time too, so Shayne was gracious enough to let them sell their CDs on consignment there as well. Over time he started to branch out and acquire new products from different companies, thus the store was slowly growing into something bigger and better every passing day. 

Eventually he convinced his cousin Jason to join the crew. Jason lived in Kitchener and had recently started tattooing, so he also took a leap of blind faith, sold most of belongings, and moved to Orangeville. It was a very exciting time and I was more than happy to start getting tattoos from Jason. 

As the months passed by the shop was really starting to pick up momentum. Shayne planted the seed in me that it would only be a matter of time before he would need me there to work full time, and I was totally game for that…

The original location at 85 Broadway as it stands today.