Business is always slow in January, says Adam Brown. He's found his niche, selling spray paint, BMX bikes and custom skateboards – none of which are in hot demand this time of year.
"So this year I finally had to take a second job, working at Eckō at the outlets in Merrimack," said Brown. "Which is cool, because I've been wearing Eckō gear for years anyway."
Brown isn't daunted. Between shifts at the Merrimack Premium Outlets he shows up every day to his shop, Streetwise Graffiti Bike and Paint, 147 Temple St., determined to keep it going for as long as he can – as much to keep the merchandise available locally as for the 64-foot-long graffiti wall outside the shop, the only "legal" graffiti wall in New Hampshire.
"It would be really depressing if I had to close. For one thing, I don't want to have to drive to Beverly [Mass.] again," said Brown.
He explains that for graffiti artists who want to show off their skills, the free wall in Beverly is like graffiti heaven. It's the only other legal option in New England – even sanctioned by Beverly, Mass., Police, as a welcome alternative to "tagging" or "throwing up" illegal work on walls, bridges, and public buildings.
Brown, 26, who grew up in Nashua, admits he's been there and done that in his younger days. But now, he regards illegal graffiti as vandalism. That's why he settled on the location of his shop, off the beaten path of Main Street.
"The city said it would be OK to have a legal wall, as long as it wasn't on Main Street. This place was perfect," said Brown, of the tiny shop featuring two display cases, a decent selection of BMX bicycles and custom painted skateboards, a few T-shirt racks and a stool, where he sits, behind the counter.
And lots and lots of spray paint.
"Most people don't get a chance to see graffiti as art in a place like Nashua, because all they see is the vandalism. There are always kids who will ruin it for everyone – on the flip side, you kind of have to learn it on the streets. That's why I like having the graffiti wall. I like showing kids how to paint," Brown said.
He gets occasional commissioned public and private work, like the colorful mural he recently updated on the side of Chicken 'n Chips on West Hollis Street. He also did work for Granite Skate indoor skate park, which closed last year, Twist Tattoo and Inner City Materials. He also has painted murals at people's homes.
For right now, at least, he's living the dream – Brown saved all the money he could working 40 hours a week at Anton's Cleaners pressing pants, until he had enough to open the small paint store about 16 months ago.
"This was the lowest rent I could find, and the best location for a legal wall," Brown says.
He shares turf with a number of other businesses, which are changing from industrial to commercial, including his new neighbor, Ellis Martial Arts Center.
Streetwise carries imported spray paint in endless, vivid colors, and custom nozzles to change the size of the spray.
"The paint you buy at Home Depot wouldn't work for graffiti – all this paint is imported from other countries, like Germany, Spain, Canada, China. They don't manufacture it here anymore. This has high opacity, and low pressure," he says, showing off one of the cans, designed to look like a work of art, as well.
He'd like more people to stop by and shop. He'd really like more people to stop by and paint.
"People should take advantage of this wall – there's never been anything like it, and probably never will again," Brown said.
He also thinks Nashua, like Beverly, should create a public art space for graffiti.
"I'm not sure the city is ready for that, but the Exit 6 train bridge should be a legal wall," Brown said.
BONUS: Watch a time-lapse YouTube video of an Alice In Wonderland themed paint session at the Streetwise Graffiti Wall, uploaded under the photo gallery.