Heaven For Biker Gents
Owner of Reserve Supply Company Jason Bruen is busy laying out new stock when I walk through the door. Shaking hands, I make a remark about the unique character of the space. Jason, looking comfortable in a plaid button-down, jeans and well-worn Red Wings, takes me back into the store’s history.
A Heaven for Biker Gents
“You know Washington Avenue was the corridor between Houston and San Antonio. This was the original way to get from place to place so it’s a historical neighbourhood, and the building goes back for some time. We definitely get a lot of people that come through and say it’s got a New York, or sometimes San Francisco, kinda vibe," says Jason. "But I think it’s just that period, you know, where it’s that industrial look and feel. It has a lot to do with the tin ceilings and the concrete floors and the stucco.”
And what of the actual contents of the space? – I soon find myself in an elaborate discussion of fashion inspirations that swing quickly to England for the both of us. The classic Brixton hats peppered around the store are affirmation of his interest. I surmise: this store is tailored for the gents, blending bespoke tradition with West Coast skater subcultures.
Jason and his wife Heather moved to Houston in 2010 with a developed desire to share these personal inspirations, and reasoned “there had to be some like minded folks that would support our venture. With a bit of coaxing from my wife we decided to go for it.” Now ran by the two of them, Reserve Supply Co is ultimately a tactile expression of their inspirations. Amongst the vintage leather riding jackets, Herschel rucksacks, Pendleton shirts, and local made soaps and toiletries, are a few treasures of an age past. The green and gold barber’s chair in the back secrets a marvellous story that Jason recounts with nostalgic respect to his father.
But the silvery Hound of the Baskervilles guarding the store floor definitely demands an explanation: “So, what’s the story with the Triumph?”
“That’s mine!” Jason instantly beams with pride.
“It’s a beautiful ride” I admire, and his eye sparkle from behind black-framed glasses. Jason explains in detail how he modified the bike into a single carburettor and has since turned it into his beloved weekend ride. While half of the technicalities remain gibberish to me, I manage to follow. And by the time I exit the store, not only have I rekindled my old love for café racers, classic boots and fedora hats, but I’m convinced that Jason and Heather are collectors of dreams on behalf of a design-loving world.
Jason, how would you describe your personal style?
Denim, button down shirts, long sleeve in the winter and short in the summer, T-shirts in the summer and a good jacket in the winter. I like the classics that are well crafted with subtle and unique details.
And what are some of your biggest fashion inspirations?
Skateboarding, Motorcycles, and Art - all these subcultures that have life “styles” about them. Each one has great people involved. Some are designers, artist, fabricators, colorful characters, and so on. Some winners and some losers, I get inspiration from all of them.
So what was the impetus to open Reserve Supply Co?
Reserve Supply Company sprang from having had my own skateboard shop and skate park for a decade. Toward the end, I found myself wishing I had additional customers for these other brands, which were not skateboard related. These were brands that I would come across that I was inspired by, used, or appreciated.
The interior here has a very particular aesthetic. What influenced the 'look' of the store?
I came across a store in Camperdown Australia called The House of Simple Pleasures by Deus Ex Machina. These guys have an apparel line, build custom motorcycles and surf boards, and have a cafe all in the same retail space. When I saw this store, a light bulb went off! Today, Heather my wife is responsible for the look for our store. I help but she is the one with the eye and the merchandising skills. We both have the same taste so it works out.
Any local designers you stock?
We are big fans of Carlos Hernandez. He is an illustrator, screen print maker, and typography guru. We also sell Augustus Rag. They manufacture pocket squares and handkerchiefs out of unique textiles - great pieces for a men’s shop.
And what's happening with the barbers chair in the back there?
The Barber’s chair has been in my family as long as I can recall. I fell off of it as a kid, my younger sister did the same, and so have my kids. My dad traded a used motorcycle for the chair in the 70′s. He was a Honda motorcycles dealer for thirteen years. A customer really wanted a bike and did not have the money for it. He asked my dad if he would be interested in a trade. That is how he got the barber’s chair. Good deal if you ask me.
Aside from your Triumph, is there a favourite object in the store?
Yes my bike is a favourite. I also love selling the Red Wing Heritage boots. They are just so well made, and good looking. I have that antique display case for sunglasses. I was told it was an antique cigar case. It has a cash drawer on the back side with a really neat self locking system. Last but not least, we have a 8 foot vintage Rocket that Heather had picked up along the way.
Gabriel : Focusing a bit of your city now, what are some recent developments in Houston's design and fashion community?
Jason : Seems to be some momentum in the fashion and design seen in Houston. The Classroom, a store in Rice Village recently celebrated their one year anniversary. It is a nice men’s store carrying some unique brands. I am glad to see what they are introducing to the Houston scene as far as men’s apparel.
The owner of Mortar, another men’s store in Houston is developing something. I have not met with him yet. I have heard some rumours, and it sounds like it is going to be a huge contribution to manufacturing and producing unique pieces of clothing here in Houston. Can’t wait to talk to him and find out what he’s up to.
Carlos Hernandez at The Burning Bones Press is always blowing my mind. He brings such great artist to town for workshops at his studio. We see a lot of great creatives that come through the store. There is so much talent here in Houston.