By Jordan Rosales
Discovering his passion
Although he moved here from Hollister when he was 20, Theodore Armendariz considers Stockton his one true home and feels lucky to be part of the Downtown Stockton community. Theodore’s road to becoming a business owner hasn’t been an easy one. About four years ago he was suffering from depression and turned to alcohol to help him cope. His alcoholism had already caused him to lose two jobs when he started working for his friend, Danny Burgess. Burgess told him he would also have to fire him but offered to take him to rehab and help him turn his life around. Looking back, Theodore now recognizes that Danny’s tough love is what helped save his life and without the support of Danny and his wife Chris, he’s not sure he’d even be alive today. After he left rehab, he moved in with his parents who were extremely supportive of his recovery and fundamental to his success. It was while living with his parents that he developed his love of creating art. His mom was always a collector of antiques and he started noticing that her collectibles were falling apart. This led him to coming up with creative ways to fix her antiques and sketching up ideas on how to repurpose them. He then started creating pieces of his own. Creating art saved his life, it helped him stay sober, and gave him a creative and positive outlet for his soul.
Sharing his art
Once he started posting his art to Instagram, it really started taking off. People would message him asking to buy his pieces which led him to selling at the Stockmarket and eventually setting up his own store. Port City Mercantile opened its doors for the first time in late January this year. Theodore sells unique, one-of-a kind pieces of furniture, like lamps and tables, and art made from upcycled and recycled material. He scours flea markets, garage sales, and everything in between for his materials and turns them into special creations. Because of this no two pieces are ever the same. One of Theodore’s core beliefs is that we should always be giving back, whether it be to our community or earth which is why he uses the materials he does. He utilizes what he already has instead of buying new materials and creating more waste, going on to say “the earth already has so many great materials to work with. The earth is good to us so we should be good to it.” Theodore gets his inspiration from his surroundings and by taking note of what’s missing in people’s lives. He hopes his art can act as conversation pieces in people’s homes. Noting that it’s hard to have a conversation about an Ikea lamp that everyone has, but it’s easy to talk about a unique piece of art that you are proud to own.
Like all non-essential businesses, Port City Mercantile is closed right now but will be open as soon as it is safe to do so. When we’re able to gather again, Theodore plans to host community events like open mic nights and art shows for other artists as another way to give back to the community.
Supporting the community
Theodore said he knew Downtown Stockton was the perfect place because he always loved an underdog. He wanted to start his business in a place that was under-utilized and do his part to help develop it. He went on to say that Stockton is a growing place and it really reminds him of San Francisco in many ways. His philosophy is that you can’t complain about an area if you’re not going to actively try and make it a better place, further clarifying that, “People always complain that there’s nothing to do. There’s plenty to do here but you actually have to go out and do it, it’s not gonna just come to you.” But perhaps most importantly he loves the community that he’s in, specifically shouting out Red’s Coffee and Golden Rose Barber. “Stockton shaped me into a more cultural person because of how diverse it is. It feels like a small town but it’s still a city, like a mini San Francisco.” Theodore is extremely passionate about the Downtown Stockton community and hopes the current situation will help it thrive when businesses are up and running again. His advice was, “Right now is showing us the importance of small business, if you buy from amazon, you’re just making a billionaire richer. We should support each other now more than ever. We need to keep supporting local even after this, learn from this and don’t go back to the way we were. We can build a stronger community and be better than ever. It’s really a numbers game, if more people shop downtown less people will be afraid to check it out. Like they say, if you bring light into the darkness the evil will go away.”
Theodore believes that sharing his story is important because there’s such a stigma around alcoholism that tends to force people not to talk about it. He hopes his ability to live openly can help at least one person speak out and seek the help they need because sometimes people don’t even know how to ask for help themselves. He wants to show that you can move forward and find healthy outlets like he has with his art.
What animal do you think represents the essence of Downtown Stockton?
A lone wolf because we were kind of abandoned. They developed everywhere else like Weston Ranch and 8 Mile but they should’ve started here and built from the inside out.
Describe Downtown Stockton in one word
What’s your favorite downtown eatery?
Check out Theodroe’s work on Instagram at @Art_By_Theodore
Theodore plans on changing the store’s name from Port City Mercantile to Theodore’s Mercantile in June when he renews his business license.