Tom Price, whose background is in design and writing, always wanted to own his own business. Last year, that dream came true.
Downtown Life Magazine, formerly called D Magazine, is celebrating its first birthday this weekend in Merced. The editor/publisher has seen his magazine grow: from 24 pages to 40 pages, from 12 initial advertisers to 40 and from being a one-man operation with a handful of volunteers to bringing on a former contributor as a full-time employee.
The monthly magazine is available for free around town.
Sun-Star: What made you want to establish Downtown Life Magazine?
Price: I moved to Merced about three years ago and didn't know anybody. (I) worked at the Merced Sun-Star and I lived in the old Theatre apartments downtown. I was also a student at Merced College at the time. Everywhere I went, people were complaining about how there was nothing to do in Merced. People from out of town who moved here, but basically I would go home every night and I would see these business owners really trying to reach those people who said there was nothing. I don't think people recognized what was going on downtown yet. So I thought I kind of wanted to be a part of it.
S-S: What's your favorite story you've published?
TP: I did a story on this guy Gabe Mayorga. He owns Gabe's Tavern and Barber Shop on Martin Luther King Jr. Way off of Main Street. (It's a) tiny, little bar that I didn't know was there and I'd hear stories about this guy, a really unique individual. So I walked in there and asked if I could talk about him. After I wrote that story, there was an outpouring of people who always wondered about that place. I got so many phone calls and e-mails. His daughter from San Francisco called me and she was really emotional about it. She said, 'People don't understand my father, but you did a good job of cutting through his exterior.' I revealed a lot about someone that people didn't know about, which is kind of what our mission is: to tell the downtown story that no one really knows. It doesn't always have to be about events. The magazine is about people -- what I really want it to be about.
S-S: What has the feedback been from the Merced community?
TP: It was cool. I think before the first issue, I went around, I had buy-in from the art community. I went and talked to the Playhouse, the Art Center. If I had any chance at all, I had to have their buy-in, not financially but invested in seeing that we succeed. I think there was a lot of skepticism elsewhere.
S-S: How many people contribute to it?
TP: Five consistent people you will see, but I have some professors from the UC who contribute every once in a while.
S-S: What's your favorite band that's been previewed in the magazine?
TP: I listen to a lot of local bands. I book concerts, too. Ironically, my favorite band, they have not been featured in the magazine, El Olio Wolof.
S-S: What's your favorite thing about Merced?
TP: I guess my favorite thing -- and it sounds really cheesy -- is its people. I've moved around a lot. I've bounced around all of these communities and had a great time in pretty much all of them. When I moved to Merced and especially when I moved downtown, I felt so at home, and I think it really was because of the people. I have so many great friends down here because of the magazine I can't even fathom going anywhere else.
Price said he is planning to hire more contributors within the next six months.
And look out for something new in the magazine in November: two blank pages where an artist, someone visual, or someone who writes poetry, can do with the space whatever they want.
"It's a blank canvas for artists to express themselves," he said.
Sort of the way he started his magazine.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.