Monster rock: Gama-Go explodes into its second year

Gama-Go: just the spot for that pop surrealist chef on your gift list
Photo by Caitlin Donohue

Greg Long stands behind his guitar-shaped spatula. “We want to make things people have joy and humor in, but aren’t embarrassed to have lying around the house,” says the co-founder of Gama-Go, a homegrown clothing and houseware store which, judging by its one year victory lap/anniversary party going down Sat/8, seems to have struck a cord with those looking for a little hip whimsy in their potholders and change purses.

To walk into the SOMA storefront where Gama-Go hawks their wares (the company also has a buzzing online presence, and sells in over 150 stores nationwide) is to enter an adult’s toy shop. It’s a cartoon aesthetic, dominated by big eyes and a bright palette. Gama-Go’s well known characters, Yeti, Deathbot and Tigerlily -- a kid in a snug tiger suit known to wield firearms and electric guitars -- run wild over solid backgrounds. Inspired designs -- a pigeon perched atop a mountain of piled bicycles, an outsized DeathBot playing croquet with the St. Louis arch -- are emblazoned on apparel, and tables full of witty things for house and office sit on white tables. One toy we’d heard about before coming; the “potholder”, a marijuana leaf-shaped trivet.

You know you want a Gama-Go Keytar in your world. Photo by Caitlin Donohue

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Long and co-founder Chris Edmundson were employed at a toy company when the idea for their own t-shirt enterprise came a-knocking in 2001. “I was turning 30, and thought it was time to do something different," recalls Long. "We gathered together ideas and quit our jobs. Originally, we had thought about making purses, but we did some trade shows, and realized purses weren’t a great idea -- but the illustrations we’d done for the purses were pretty great. We started silk screening T-shirts in the basement of my house.”

The pair contacted Tim Biskup, who was the first in a long line of designers they’ve had on staff since -- currently they work with four that flesh out the general concepts that Edmundson and Long create.

The punchy scenes they came up with were a hit in t-shirt crazy SF, and soon the line was selling out of boutique stores like Therapy and Wishbone. Long cites Disney concept artist Mary Blair as one influence, in addition to punk concert flyers and LA pop surrealism. Gama-Go has since expanded into kid’s clothes, and the pun-inflected line of kitchenware and lifestyle accessories.

“We’ve never tried to go for an unattainable product,” says Long. “We wanted it to be affordable to normal people. For $10 you can buy something you’re really excited about -- it’s not something you have to think a whole lot about and save money for.” Long was stoked about Gama-Go’s upcoming anniversary party, which celebrates a year in a neighborhood that is rapidly changing, restaurants and cafes sprouting up around their 8th Street location with all the alacrity of a pack of ninja kitties on one of their women’s tees.

One gets the sense that Long and company want to show off what they’ve accomplished. Their party Saturday will pack snacks and entertainment into the small storefront, with the first 50 heads that spend over $40 in the store receiving a limited edition print of Yeti entering battle on the back of a dragon.

Mythological beings come together in anniversary bloodshed. Truly celebratory!

Gama-Go One Year Anniversary Party
Sat/8 12-5 p.m., free
Gama-Go flagship store
335 8th St., SF
(415) 626-0213