On a recent spring afternoon, Daymon Green and Jason Jacobs were in their Lower East Side multifunction boutique, Community 54, surrounded by thousands of relics of “hip-hop nostalgia.” The shop’s retail concept takes inspiration from the urban music scene during the duo’s glory days growing up in the late Eighties and Nineties — Green in downtown Toronto and Jacobs in Brooklyn and later Long Island. Vintage, vintage-inspired, and reconstructed sports jerseys, hats, chains, sweaters and T-shirts evoke a time when MTV still played rap videos and cool kids wore baggy Ralph Lauren sweatshirts.
“The name ‘community’ kept coming up,’” says Green, 39, of the store’s moniker. True to form, the space is as much retail outlet as a hangout. There’s a film studio for interviews and music videos, and a party venue that has played host to rappers A$AP Rocky, Soulja Boy, DMX and, fittingly, Rich Hil, Tommy Hilfiger’s son, an on-the-make MC and former intern at the shop.
Green got his start in the “school of life,” opening up his first streetwear store, Lounge, in downtown Toronto at 19. He would import coveted American underground labels such as Triple 5 Soul, where he would later serve one of several corporate stints. At the time, there was little supply and much demand.
“I’d buy some stuff and put it in a hockey bag and bring it back to Canada,” he says. “There weren’t a lot of duties paid.”
Both men are tall and masculine, though Jacobs is more svelte and less flashy, and both sport neatly trimmed scruff. Green’s is graying. Store manager Sam Pattillo is the third wheel protégé who, in many respects, runs the show. He is responsible for publicity, greeting guests, perfecting in-store playlists, and reminding his bosses whom to name-drop.
The co-owners complement each other professionally and personally. Green’s loud, self-deprecating jocularity is balanced by Jacobs’ calmness.
“He’s my boss,” says Jacobs, 33, who manages store logistics and finances while Green plays buyer and tastemaker. Jacobs’ fashion is considerably more understated, save for last year’s “bonus,” a black Rolex with a diamond bezel peeking out from underneath his cream thermal.
The range of customers who enter Community 54, from third generation Lower East Side natives to indie darlings like singer Santigold, are evidence of the owners’ welcoming nature. Out back, the relatively spacious yard doubles as an “art gallery” curated by the pair’s longtime buddy, graffiti guru Cinik. The tall brick walls act as a fresh canvas for local street artists every few days.
Community 54 has an eponymous brand as well as a sister outpost in Parkdale, Toronto’s answer to the East Village. The co-owners are eyeing South Miami for a third location. While Jacobs yearns to one day be a beach-bum retiree, Green is just beginning to dabble in interior design and hopes to expand into consulting.
“What do we ultimately do?” Green asked aloud. “We’re connectors.”