When you think of a magazine or news stand, you instantly think of either a small corner store- esque structure or a modest stand-alone hutch off the street (like in NYC). Well, the guys at TOMO Mags decided to take the millennial magazine stand to the next level. TOMO Mags is housed in a blue repurposed school bus and parks at various locations throughout Houston. I finally had the chance to visit the bus during one of their Sundays parked outside of Tout Suite.
Meet Vico Puentes and Keiwing Chong. Puentes has been dabbling in various markets throughout the fashion industry for about ten years. He’s done everything from buying, marketing to styling and is currently doing art direction for a major retailer. Chong is a graphic designer and loves paper and being technical. The guys wanted to combine projects that they’ve worked on and turn it into one business. They thought that the magazine industry was a really natural way of bringing their dream to fruition.
They chose to repurpose a small scale school bus, due to less overhead than an actual brick-n-mortar (and why not go to where the people are). They chose the name TOMO because “we really think of this project as one of our other “kids” (they have two dogs named Keito and Toshi) so we thought, ‘let’s name it something similar and in the same sense as a Japanese name.’ So while researching, we came across TOMO, which means ‘knowledgable friend’ in both old and new Japanese. In Latin, it means ‘volume’ as in book or issue. It can also mean ‘to take in’ in Spanish. So for us, it means ‘a knowledgable friend that you take in information from.'”
The shelves inside the bus are filled with publications with what seems like every subject imaginable; from architecture, design, LGBT, to fashion and children’s. I even spied paper goods, buttons and journals. Puentes further explains, “A lot of times, when we look at what we want to carry as far as a publication is concerned, I look at it more from an emotional standpoint. I flip through it (magazines) and ‘oh it makes me happy or it makes me think’…That’s sort of my mind set. For Keiwing, it’s more like that he pays attention to the paper or the technical aspect, which I think is a good balance. But we definitely keep an open mind to make sure we’re not just buying for ourselves. We allow different points-of-view to be available so that people can find something that interests them. Ultimately we want to make sure that everyone can walk in and find something, as there is a little bit of something for everyone. We want something that makes people interested to want to pick up and read and feel like they can take it with them. We look for architecture, design, opinion, fashion…We don’t have a set criteria. We don’t want to be known for one thing. We want to be known for having a variety. There is a set of expectations with the quality of the publication: great art direction, great color, design, the material has to be high-quality. We’re still open minded. Ultimately as long as it’s a publication itself that has a strong opinion whatever the subject is, is worth it for us.”
They officially launched on October 11th of this year. It’s been a good start, but they’ve had to deal with the weather as well.”We have great partnerships with retailers from boutiques to coffee shops that allow us to park and then either set up inside because of we have to be really careful of the humidity (it is Houston after all). If it’s way too humid or if it’s raining; even though we’re protected, the paper starts warping.”
They dedicate Sunday mornings, usually from 10am to 2pm(ish) to #techrehab – a chance to disconnect from technology and hang out or read a magazine while sipping on coffee from Tout Suite on another local coffee shop of their choosing.
Once their website launches, they plan on selling the magazines there as well. They want to help promote Houston publications like Sugar and Rice and Gulf Coast Journal. “Those are publications that we feel Houston is aware of and we are happy to carry them even though they are carried in a lot of places.”