SHOP: Ojai’s Shop Summer Camp

canoe was built by Mike's grandfather in the 60's and now keeps watch over pinon Incense, dog teepees, and wares from makesmith. everything in stock is from designers, artists, and makers in california.
the gas station. photocredit shop summer camp
the gas station.

With Thanksgiving’s epic gut-stuffing soon to commence, allow me to usher the brazen idea of a Pork + PB&J Sandwich into the ether.

“I haven’t had one yet. It sounds gross and amazing and I cannot wait to try one,” said Rachel Graves of Shop Summer Camp, the grand opening of which involved such a snack.

The Graves now own what was before a forsaken fill-up station. In a place like Ojai, California Mike and Rachel’s shop with it’s custom framing services is unexpected.

Groups of inquisitive interlopers would peer inside the gas station’s wide bright windows (which hid nothing of the build-out) and often the braver of the bunch would approach the door to tug on the handle, only to be met with the unsatisfying and prohibitive catch of a locked latch.
‘Sorry, we’re closed’—  the Graves mouthed.

A few evenings of this — the head-shaking and the grimacing and the come-back-next -weeks —  Mike and Rachel threw in the towel and propped their damn door open anyways — welcoming whomever wanted to rest despite an unfinished storefront.

“The gas station had been empty for so long , at least twelve years,” Rachel said.  “People kept coming by every day when we were setting up, they were interested in what we were doing. We haven’t done any advertising, we don’t even have a sign up yet and people are still stopping by.”

shop summer camp

I had caught Rachel in her car as she drove from the beloved gas station to her home in Santa Monica. After a day of shop set-up, her commute is long — three hours — but worth it. Ojai’s pink-laced evenings are a difficult honeymoon to extricate oneself from.

 The keys, received not long ago from a curmudgeonly yet well-meaning past owner, felt as fortuitous as keys to a fabled city — an all-inclusive invitation to become part of Ojai’s new creative class.

“I had been running a store in Santa Monica for the last five years, and Mike had been doing framing there for ten. We had been wanting to open a shop for years, but nothing ever came together and nothing ever seemed right.”

canoe was built by Mike's grandfather in the 60's and now keeps watch over pinon Incense, dog teepees, and wares from makesmith. everything in stock is from designers, artists, and makers in california.
the interior. canoe was built by Mike’s grandfather in the 60’s and now keeps watch over pinon incense, dog teepees, and wares from makesmith. everything in stock is from designers, artists, and makers in california. photo by michael and rachel graves

When the gas station in all its faded jetson-like modernism, finally went up for sale, the Graves snatched it up.

“Now we’ve met a bunch of people, some of the best being the folks behind Ojai Rancho Inn, which is owned by our new friends Chris and Kenny. We actually stayed in their hotel a long time ago during our honeymoon and that’s how we found the gas station.”

the ojai rancho inn. photo: apartment therapy
the ojai rancho inn.
photo: apartment therapy

“They’ve been doing concerts and different events once a month, and they’re the first thing in Ojai that is sort of changing it. They started something by taking over the inn and bringing people from all different parts of California — people from San Francisco and LA — and exposing them to Ojai. Thats how we came here, and that’s how we fell in love with it.”

Mike and Rachel are passionate about the craft of custom framing.
he craft of custom framing.

“I grew up closer to the Palm Springs area, at the base of the mountains, surrounded by beautiful mid-century homes.  We always had a love of mid-century modern. I was a girl scout, and I went to summer camp and winter camp”

“I was a girl scout too. There’s winter camp? We never did that,” I said, feeling fiercely cheated out of what I imagined to be a romantic week of moccasin-making and inuit-style fish frying.

“Oh yeah, winter camp was my favorite, and that’s what the store is — an outlet of everything we love.”

“So what’s your favorite thing about Ojai then?”

“There’s this thing called the pink moment, when the sun sets and everything gets this beautiful glow. It’s so peaceful.”

the pink moment. photo by michael graves
the pink moment. photo by michael graves

shop summer camp
1020 W. Ojai Ave,
Ojai CA 93023
805-807-4814