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I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ruben Gonzales, a Tolleson, Ariz., native, and the founder/creator of 11th Monk3y, a fun, unique local clothing brand. He and his colleagues are putting their individual stamp of creativity and passion into the Downtown Phoenix area. Gonzales has recently been focusing on Grand Avenue, the new hot spot for creative minds in the Phoenix art community.
11th Monk3y all started with an idea to make a fun, unique local clothing company targeted for the break boy (b-boy) and hip hop community. Gonzales started very simple. He sold his apparel on sidewalks, at b-boy events and small festivals in the art community, and even a few years at the Roosevelt Row Fair. From that small seed, the line of 11th Monk3y has grown into a full local urban street line. The whole idea Gonzales says was to “…be unique, be different, be you, and own your individuality. Stand out in the crowd of hundreds!” The goal was to be involved and focused allowing the community to be a part of the developing process with 11th Monk3y with classes the brand offers. “The mission with the brand is to show people we can all do what we want and love doing it,” said Gonzales. “The motto of 11th Monk3y is, ‘Each one Teach one.’ The more we work together the more we grow together, and the better we help our community TOGETHER!”
With 11th Monk3y growing and flourishing another opportunity presented itself to Gonzales and The Lab137, a collaboration of artists in the community came together with Monica Robles and Dave Bjorn becoming Gonzales’ partners in the joint effort. Gonzales explains, “The Lab137 began after me and Joseph “sent rok” Perez decided to split from what was from the Rise Project pop-up shop. I was offered an amazing opportunity and I took it! Monica Robles, that woman, she is AMAZING at its best. We have very similar design and building tastes. The friendship was instant. Her talent and vision are inspiring and her smarts just made her perfect for the team. When things just fit well you tend to stick with that. I had been in talks with Monica for about a year at that point about how cool would it be to have an open class work shop and store. Like a gym but for artists! She was all about it and we meet up at Jobot Coffee shop along with Dave Bjorn who was also there to become a part of what we were sure was about to happen. It was EXCITING and TERRIFYING! I’ve known Bjorn for about six years now. I met him out an about and found through talking that we had things in common. The friendship began then. Together we are The Lab137. Currently Bjorn and I have split ways with the shop space and business. Our shop just out grew the old space we had occupied and it was time for a change and growth.”
A significant and positive amount of growth with 11th Monk3y has resulted in the business and workshop being moved to a space on the up and coming Grand Avenue area of Downtown Phoenix. When asking Gonzales what was different and the reason behind the move, he replied: “What’s different? Well for one thing, about two thousand more feet than before! Grand Avenue just feels more like home. The space is raw and open to ideas with no restraints for the most part. The buildings are old, historic, and I love that! Redbrick buildings, old signage, and the area are really coming into its own. Roosevelt Row has energy of its own and Grand Avenue has new energy I didn’t feel on Roosevelt. It’s the new old school revived! The move needed to happen with more people wanting to take classes, and the space getting too small, we were losing business. You need to be able to adapt, maximize your space, and give your clients what they deserve, and want, otherwise they will walk. Nobody in a business wants that so we looked around and got a heads up from our friend Angela Riccobono from Cherry Bomb’n Wear about this space on Grand Avenue. The space is amazing, and everyone will see when they come out.”
The space opened on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. and Gonzales hopes people will come and experience the new location. The Lab137 resides as well as just as a pop-up gallery ran by Robles. Everything from clothing, bicycles, to having business cards, custom metal work, and flyers are offered through 11th Monk3y. Gonzales hopes that the brand will only grow and maybe someday spread to the East Coast or Bay Area, but the “Mother Ship” of 11th Monk3y will remain in Phoenix.
The essence of Ruben Gonzales can be summed up by his own words, “Whatever I do, I try to make it count. I don’t want to be rich or famous; I just want to be remembered for doing things that hopefully inspire a few more people to do what they love!” I see nothing but hard work, and success for Ruben and 11th Monk3y so the next time you’re around Grand Avenue stop by and see 11th Monk3y.
1022 Grand Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85007
610 E. Roosevelt Road, Suite 137
Phoenix AZ 85004
* This post was written by both Alex Turley and Katie Brashear, Complex Director of Public Relations, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.