Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung of Poketo are two very, very busy people. Not only are they running a very successful arts and lifestyle business, but they do it out of a small loft in Downtown Los Angeles that functions as a photo studio, warehouse, and office. The two sit on the only couch in the room, which is positioned in front of a window being cleaned by a window washer. The Northeast face of the city acts as their backdrop.
“We’re always talking about how we’re kind of an LA welcoming committee,” Ted starts, “People are coming out and we just show them around, going to our favorite restaurants, and people always end up leaving super stoked.”
“They’re always like, ‘I thought LA was lame but I guess it’s not: LA’s really cool!’” Angie echoes. You’d think with such Los Angeles fandom, the two would be from the city. But, as true Los Angelenos are, they are both transplants: they’ve both lived here nearly ten years after first meeting in San Francisco.
“I grew up in Southern California, Orange County,” Ted explains, but found himself in Northern California for college at UC Santa Cruz: “I just fell in love with the environment, all the trees, and the overall vibe. I fell in love with it instantly.”
“After graduating, I made a normal transition up to San Francisco,” he says, where he worked in post-production and training at Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), a non-profit video arts center. Ted was a teacher there, which is how he and Angie met: she covered a class for him after he left.
“Ted went away for a year and then I took over his class, teaching high school kids. And when he came back, he took over the class from me,” Angie recalls, laughing. The two were very involved in the artistic community in San Francisco. Ted detailed that “meeting artists and being part of the community was just sort of natural” in San Francisco.
“It’s very different from LA in that, once you get to know the community, it’s very small,” Angie adds, nodding her head, “It was very conducive to starting something there because it was so easy to connect with people and connect with artists, our community.”
That small artistic community and their involvement of putting on shows is exactly what spawned Poketo. Angie explains: “We had all these friends who are so talented, making art, and we were having fun throwing art shows. We thought, ‘Well, we should make something that’s affordable and something easier for people to buy,’ because no one was buying art. All of our friends were poor like us!”
But, how did Poketo decide what to make first? “We decided to make wallets,” Angie says, as they thought, “We should just make something that’s easy and fun with art on it.” The wallet was the perfect representation of that.
They were on to something with their wallets. Angie says giggling a bit, “It was before the explosion of the handmade movement…it was the very, very early days of the, ‘Oh, it’s handmade!,’ artists collaborations, and things like that. I think we kind of caught the wind of it because as soon as we started this, everyone went crazy. It was right in the same year that ReadyMade Magazine was published. The first press we got was from the first show: the Editor-In-Chief of ReadyMade–Shoshana Berger–came to the show and was like, ‘Oh my God we loves this, we’re going to feature it in the Magazine.”
The rest is basically history, as they continued to create these fun shows with equally as fun products. However, as their company grew so much from their 2003 beginning, they needed to grow as well. “For expansion, it definitely helped to be in LA. You know, it’s just bigger: more people that could know about Poketo, and you just have more, collectively different types of people,” Angie described.
But, if you’ve ever met a person from San Francisco, there is great aversion to Los Angeles, which is often seen as this despicably greedy consumerist city. “When you move to SF, you kind of heard this aversion to LA,” Ted notes, “And I think a lot of people had that at the time.But, as we had some friends who were starting to establish themselves in LA, the more we visited and realized, ‘Wow: LA is actually really cool.’ We were seeing this different part of it, seeing it from our friend’s perspective and loving what they were finding.”
Ted continues, “You get to know SF quickly and you want something new–and LA was it. This idea of expanse, this limitlessness, LA totally has it. When we got here, the city had this real energy, more than there was in San Francisco. It just felt like everyone was so down to collaborate and do whatever.”
Angie adds: “I used to always theorize that it’s because of Hollywood, the industry is essentially collaboration between all kinds of creative and business. It is infused in the whole culture in LA. Whereas in SF, there was a definite movement and great support for the arts, but mixing the arts with the commerce would’ve been a little bit uncomfortable for most people.”
In Los Angeles, Ted and Angie have gotten to expand their business. Even though they never imagined they would end up here, it seems like Poketo and Los Angeles are the perfect fit for each other. “I think there’s a lot of inspiration just out and about.,” Ted says, “The stores, the architecture, and going for walks in the park and in nature: when you really do think about it, your environment really shapes that. Here, you’re like, ‘Dude: I’m gonna take my dog out, just go walk in the park and just zone out on these cool houses or day dream about living in that one.’–you know what I mean?”
“It’s the creative and physical space that allows you to actually be more inspired,” Angie says, “There is room here, and that room is conducive to growth and creative thinking.”
And with space comes things to fill it, which plays in perfectly for a goal Ted and Angie have always had for Poketo: to open a store. “One of our goals, which has been since day one, has always been a Poketo storefront. A cafe, an art space, a retail store for everything we make and love,” Ted says. Angie clarifies, “Actually, that’s what we moved down here for: we thought that we were going to open up a gallery.”
“We want to get to a point where we have a killer store in LA. A place where people can come and hang out, be surrounded by art, eat, and just take in the lifestyle, that kind of Poketo and California lifestyle,” Ted says.
The Los Angeles backdrop seems to twinkle as Ted gives that conclusion, fresh from it’s window washing treatment.