“And by the way, this is 100% not for press,” warns John Doffing as he regales us with another story from his trials and tribulations in running a startup together with partner Tavia Campbell. I pocket my pen and take another sip of beer.
We’re at the Walls 360 warehouse, a compound just off Tropicana on the west side of the strip. They were celebrating a new product launch, an exclusive collection of wall graphics licensed from Penguin Books. After several refills from their keg, everyone aside from Doffing, who is sipping a Coke, is loose, sharing stories and having a laugh. The Walls 360 team looks weary yet still excited enough to give a walkthrough of their facility and equipment.
Doffing spent the early ’90’s in grad school at Cambridge (Philosophy/History) before moving to San Francisco to catch the tech boom there in the late ’90’s while also curating and dealing art. Oddly, Walls 360 seems to be a logical step; they specialize in licensing art and images from the pop-culture past. The company produces wall-art from custom jobs to well-known licensed graphics. What separates them from the stuff you buy from Urban Outfitters is that fact that it’s all completely repositionable and can stick to almost any surface (even the pseudo-stucco almost all walls in Vegas seem to be made of). Walls’ has experimented with their product for almost five years, starting with vinyl stickers that were falling off walls.
“It was embarrassing,” admits Doffing. They learned from that experience and have perfected their substrate so that it’s easy to remove and reapply the stickers—hundreds of times—before they lose their grip. In fact, they’ve done so well with it that the companies that manufacture the specialty printers have consulted with them for R&D input.
Moving to Las Vegas from San Francisco last fall after briefly setting up shop in Philadelphia, Walls 360 chose to relocate based on the cost of living. But they faced some initial hurdles getting setup: When their equipment arrived on huge trucks, the union labor refused to unload it because they didn’t have the right loading dock. So they hired bodybuilders off of Craigslist to lift the equipment from the trucks, and later freelance poster-rollers to help ship their first 15,000-piece order (stalling the FedEx guy so they could finish it up).
Since landing here, Walls 360 has gone from operating with a skeleton crew to employing almost a dozen including local movers and shakers like Stewart Christensen and old friends like street artist Vulcan, and they’re looking to hire again soon.
They’ve put in the time, working seven days a week to keep production moving, but when asked about what they like about Las Vegas so far, Doffing and Campbell are optimistic, recalling the art community that they found in San Francisco 15 years ago as well the nascent tech environment of the late ’90’s.
You can check out Walls360′s product lineup on their website: www.walls360.com.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.