For Todd Kiyoshi Tanaka, it takes a village, a village of poppers, break dancers, beat boxers, graffiti artists and b-boy crews to create a shop like Kleenhouse.
Tanaka would not let this article go on without first mentioning Team Kleenhouse: Ice Man, Jekle, B-boy Dan, Burstrock, Sine, RockSoFresh, Soul 2 Soul, Pho Bangers, JabaOne and Bee Hive, all who helped make it happen.
The b-boy from the block started Kleenhouse as a t-shirt company over five years ago and now has expanded into an urban shop selling everything from art supplies to hip-hop CDs to limited edition remote-control break dancer toys. Tanaka, a native San Diegan, started popping (a form of isolated dance) with the neighborhood kids at the age of 10. While hip-hop culture was always a part of his life, Tanaka got into business and marketing for big manufacturers as an adult. He eventually combined the two to form Kleenhouse.
After many years at trade shows and events Tanaka can finally call the urban boutique, located at E Street and 10th Ave. (near Pokez Mexican food restaurant), home. The shop debuted last November and has received much applause from the b-community.
A fresh concept to San Diego, Kleenhouse is a store that could really teach any passerby about the urban subculture. A colorful piece by graffiti artist Pres 1 decorates the wall, a DVD of breaker competitions or freestyle battles plays on the television and patrons can tag up the phone booth in the corner (if they can find an open space).
The shop carries a variety of graffiti artist supplies like sketchbooks, Gusto oil-based ink, Molotow paint and Belton markers along with Kleenhouse brand apparel including hooded sweatshirts, graphic tees and hats.
Ladies won't feel left out of the b-boy culture at Kleenhouse. Purses and handbags with 80s style graffiti hang on the walls and if shell toes with fat laces won't do for a night on the town, the store sells custom-made heels with bright, bubbly pieces on the sides by Oreo1. City chicas will also dig the spray paint can and shoe earrings, hoodies and t-shirts.
Tanaka's pride and joy products are the 3-D, handmade belt buckles that Kleenhouse churns out for the urban fashion-savvy. The colorful spray-paint cans with wings and "kleenhouse" in graf letter buckles have been featured in fashion-spread in national mags like Source and Stuff.
The buckles are casted and sanded, sheened with a base coat, sprayed and hand-painted at his studio in Bonita along with b-boy and girl statues, earrings and shoe and paint can necklaces. The buckles can be put on "brick wall" leather belts that the shop also sells.
Kleenhouse shows the heart and soul of graffiti and proves it has a marketable and much-respected value. Tanaka has helped create a community of artistic expression that can also mean business and profit.
Pres1, who does a lot of the designs and canvas paintings at Kleenhouse also painted a mural at the new Hard Rock Hotel in Downtown San Diego.
"I look at graffiti as art," Tanaka says. "I think when it's vandalism it's on a whole different level."
The artistic and fashionable side of graffiti that Tanaka talks about has reached international levels; he sells to Japan, Mexico and big U.S. cities like Chicago and New York. Kleenhouse can also be found in the closets of stars Missy Elliot, Serena Williams and Jazzy Jeff.
As for the name?
"I used to think Kleenhouse was about conquering all," Tanaka says. "But now I know Kleenhouse means for an individual look within for answers. It's outerwear for inner peace."