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Gonzo Report: Opening Day at Goblin Shark Emporium

Art nerds launch “Highly curated” Oceanside hangout

Goblin Shark Emporium: more art and kitsch than seems possible.
Goblin Shark Emporium: more art and kitsch than seems possible.

“This place was built on alcohol, weed, and ‘shrooms,” says the blonde man behind the counter at Goblin Shark Emporium. “The true Oceanside way, for the last 30 days.” It’s May 1, and the doors at 109 South Coast Highway have just opened to the public for the first time. I know who my host is, but he has no clue who I am. Which is how I want it. My experience is that, once a member of the press identifies themselves, the whole vibe changes, and I just want to enjoy the shop for now.

Place

Goblin Shark Emporium

109 South Coast Highway, San Diego

The interior packs more art and kitsch than seems possible in such a small space. That’s the magic of Goblin Shark: an arrangement and organization that allows me to concentrate on a particular artist or theme and appreciate it, without being distracted by the next. While I suspect hallucinogens may have aided in this, it’s clear there is an artist’s soul at work, so I shift from art nerd to reporter nerd. But not before purchasing a fridge magnet featuring Prince’s 1980 criminal mugshot for my wife Shelley, who will soon spend way too much time in front of the refrigerator, because “he even looks adorable in a mugshot.”

The man behind the counter is Tim Sams, former drummer for The Filthy Violets, Taken By Canadians, and others, who has since retired from playing live. He laughs when I tell him I wanted to be the first customer so I could re-enact Donald Pleasence at the end of Escape From New York, yelling “I’m number one! I am A-Number One!” Turns out they opened an hour early, so I missed that opportunity. Probably for the best. After I identify myself and ask a question, he says “It’s all you, babe” to his wife Kelly King, the inspired artist and curator behind Goblin Shark.

Layoffs, exacerbated by Covid-19, led King to a reassessment of her professional life that resulted in greater risk taking. As she explains, “I’m an artist and, for many years, I’d get laid off and start again, work for a few years, get laid off, and start again. I decided, I’m not going to do that anymore; I’m going to work for myself. I know a million artists. I’ve done street fairs. I was vendor coordinator for Punk Rock Food Drive. So I have all these people in my repertoire. I’ve been sitting on this idea since the last time I got laid off, and I was looking at places just to keep them in the back of my mind, when I found this place, a day after it was listed. It’s perfect; it even comes with a beer and wine license.” The synergy resonates throughout the emporium as she gestures to a mural by Nicholas Danger, a local muralist whose clients include Quartyard, Nomad Donuts, and the ACLU. “He painted the mural at the cabin we stayed at in Idyllwild when I had this epiphany [that led to Goblin King].”

The shop includes vintage vinyl, gifts, tchotchkes, plants, aura mapping aids, three-card tarot monte, and occasional all-vinyl DJ sets; but the focus is on “highly curated” local art. When I glance to my right at the entrance to a black light corridor, I see the piece that speaks to me loudest. That’s appropriate, because it’s a vintage amplifier with painted hand casts of Sams bassist Jason York (Parade Of Horribles), Will Lerner (Strawberry Moons), and visual artist Chad Spinks. “We rolled the dice on this one,” says Sams. “It’s cool because this was meant to be a place for locals, a destination psychedelic spot. But we soon found out that the by-product was going to be tourism.”

“Our first five customers were all from out of town,” adds King. “Riverside, Ohio, places like that, and they all bought something.” That makes sense, as the window display stands out from all the other store fronts along South Coast Highway with its plaques of criminal mug shots ranging from Amy Winehouse to Jeffery Dahmer — also available as coasters and magnets.

I’m reminded of something. The tarot cards, T-shirts, and art featuring drag queens remind me of a store in Baltimore, Maryland that pays homage to the pope of trash, John Waters. Goblin Shark reminds me of every out-of-town shop I seek out on road trips. It reminds me just why I love searching for — and finding — kindred spirits to take my cash.

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Goblin Shark Emporium: more art and kitsch than seems possible.
Goblin Shark Emporium: more art and kitsch than seems possible.

“This place was built on alcohol, weed, and ‘shrooms,” says the blonde man behind the counter at Goblin Shark Emporium. “The true Oceanside way, for the last 30 days.” It’s May 1, and the doors at 109 South Coast Highway have just opened to the public for the first time. I know who my host is, but he has no clue who I am. Which is how I want it. My experience is that, once a member of the press identifies themselves, the whole vibe changes, and I just want to enjoy the shop for now.

Place

Goblin Shark Emporium

109 South Coast Highway, San Diego

The interior packs more art and kitsch than seems possible in such a small space. That’s the magic of Goblin Shark: an arrangement and organization that allows me to concentrate on a particular artist or theme and appreciate it, without being distracted by the next. While I suspect hallucinogens may have aided in this, it’s clear there is an artist’s soul at work, so I shift from art nerd to reporter nerd. But not before purchasing a fridge magnet featuring Prince’s 1980 criminal mugshot for my wife Shelley, who will soon spend way too much time in front of the refrigerator, because “he even looks adorable in a mugshot.”

The man behind the counter is Tim Sams, former drummer for The Filthy Violets, Taken By Canadians, and others, who has since retired from playing live. He laughs when I tell him I wanted to be the first customer so I could re-enact Donald Pleasence at the end of Escape From New York, yelling “I’m number one! I am A-Number One!” Turns out they opened an hour early, so I missed that opportunity. Probably for the best. After I identify myself and ask a question, he says “It’s all you, babe” to his wife Kelly King, the inspired artist and curator behind Goblin Shark.

Layoffs, exacerbated by Covid-19, led King to a reassessment of her professional life that resulted in greater risk taking. As she explains, “I’m an artist and, for many years, I’d get laid off and start again, work for a few years, get laid off, and start again. I decided, I’m not going to do that anymore; I’m going to work for myself. I know a million artists. I’ve done street fairs. I was vendor coordinator for Punk Rock Food Drive. So I have all these people in my repertoire. I’ve been sitting on this idea since the last time I got laid off, and I was looking at places just to keep them in the back of my mind, when I found this place, a day after it was listed. It’s perfect; it even comes with a beer and wine license.” The synergy resonates throughout the emporium as she gestures to a mural by Nicholas Danger, a local muralist whose clients include Quartyard, Nomad Donuts, and the ACLU. “He painted the mural at the cabin we stayed at in Idyllwild when I had this epiphany [that led to Goblin King].”

The shop includes vintage vinyl, gifts, tchotchkes, plants, aura mapping aids, three-card tarot monte, and occasional all-vinyl DJ sets; but the focus is on “highly curated” local art. When I glance to my right at the entrance to a black light corridor, I see the piece that speaks to me loudest. That’s appropriate, because it’s a vintage amplifier with painted hand casts of Sams bassist Jason York (Parade Of Horribles), Will Lerner (Strawberry Moons), and visual artist Chad Spinks. “We rolled the dice on this one,” says Sams. “It’s cool because this was meant to be a place for locals, a destination psychedelic spot. But we soon found out that the by-product was going to be tourism.”

“Our first five customers were all from out of town,” adds King. “Riverside, Ohio, places like that, and they all bought something.” That makes sense, as the window display stands out from all the other store fronts along South Coast Highway with its plaques of criminal mug shots ranging from Amy Winehouse to Jeffery Dahmer — also available as coasters and magnets.

I’m reminded of something. The tarot cards, T-shirts, and art featuring drag queens remind me of a store in Baltimore, Maryland that pays homage to the pope of trash, John Waters. Goblin Shark reminds me of every out-of-town shop I seek out on road trips. It reminds me just why I love searching for — and finding — kindred spirits to take my cash.

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