BY NATALY VASQUEZ
As you walk inside Tiendique, located on 617 West Main Street in El Centro, the atmosphere is completely unlike anything else in the Imperial Valley. The store has three separate sections which include cut, craft, and culture. The details inside the store are unique and have an urban feel. Elizabeth Rodriguez is the owner and creator of Tiendique. She is also a designer, hairstylist, vintage shopper, and an interior designer. Her goal is to bring uniqueness, cultivate creativity, and connect local community in the desert.
Elizabeth Rodriguez graduated from Calexico High School. She describes herself as “one of the weird ones with blue hair and creative with her clothing.” At the age of 19, Elizabeth opened the first vintage store in the Imperial Valley called Deviant, which was similar to Tiendique, but on a smaller scale. However, she wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology school, so she moved to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, she could not afford going to cosmetology school so she began working for one of the best vintage clothing stores in L.A. called Wasteland, located on Melrose Avenue. She was a talented buyer with a good eye for vintage clothing and furniture, which helped once she began collecting. “It was a fun experience because we used to have celebrities coming in the store. One time, I got the chance to help Sarah Jessica Parker, so that was one of the highlights,” said Elizabeth.
Persistent on the idea of becoming a hair stylist, Elizabeth heard there was a cosmetology school that opened in Brawley. She returned to the Imperial Valley to pursue her dream and was taught by one of the school directors, Ms. Soto, who was an educator for Matrix. After graduating, from cosmetology school, Elizabeth styled hair for about 10-15 years in a well-known salon in the Valley. Although, she was happy to be working as a hairstylist, she missed having her own business and being surrounded by the things she loved. “I was missing that creative atmosphere,” she said.
Tiendique opened in 2014 and Elizabeth was able to combine everything she loved which is interior design, hair, culture, art, handmade products, and clothing. Even though she was afraid at first that she was going to fail, she pushed herself and said, “If I fail, at least I tried.” The name Tiendique came after she and her husband took a trip to Mexico and were discussing names for the store. She then thought of her culture and background living in a border town. That is how she mixed the words “tiendita” and “boutique” together. “It is what we speak in the Imperial Valley, both English and Spanish,” she said.
The store has been open for three years. Elizabeth has planned every detail and idea in the store. “At first, when I first received the building, it was all white with fake grass on the floor -not pretty at all. So, I would sit on the floor for hours figuring out what I can do that has not been seen before anywhere else and that is inexpensive.” Elizabeth feels no regrets; she is extremely happy and satisfied with the store. She is also setting up her salon in Tiendique. This should be completed by the end of the year. Elizabeth will be juggling many things at once. Some days she will be styling hair or looking for clothes, and other days she will be setting up art shows. However, she says that some of her difficulties have been that she only has two hands and that she can’t always do everything at once. She has learned that she can’t do everything on her own. Elizabeth has taken a lot of time and effort to plan her salon and is looking forward to the day when it is finally finished.
The store sells vintage clothing to designer resale. It also has furniture, art work, accessories, jewelry, handbags, handmade soaps, photography and much more. Every item and piece in the store is analyzed and decorated in a specific way. The building itself is a hidden jewel. It is a loft with ceiling tile from the 1800’s. It also has a massive brick wall which makes the place stand out. Elizabeth also put in her special touch by making wallpaper from pages ripped from books.
The way the store is decorated and how the merchandise is displayed makes the store unique and eye catching. Many tourists have stopped by the store, some even from New Zealand and others like famous photographers from L.A.
“They love this area of El Centro and people are always shocked to see a store like this. That is my favorite part of my job, seeing how people react when they come in. It is always a positive reaction. I live for that,” said Elizabeth.
As for her taste in clothing, it ranges from bohemian to Gothic, depending on Elizabeth’s mood. The clothes she sells are very selective, especially now, since people are more into vintage, they are looking at used clothing differently. Her clothing selection includes different styles of shoes, embroidered dresses and shirts, 70’s style dresses, vintage denim, band t-shirts, handbags, hats, and pieces that are imported from Mexico.
Customers who come to shop at Tiendique know that they can find something special that no other store has. Elizabeth is inspired by creativeness; she is always challenging herself to see what she can come up with.
“I want to be able to offer what other stores offer in San Diego or Los Angeles and bring it to hereto our community. I want my customers to feel comfortable when they come in and get inspired, maybe even play dress up,” said Elizabeth.