We had the good fortune of connecting with Johnny Smoke and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Johnny, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Right on! Thank you for sharing this time with me.

We’ve often seen being an entrepreneur painted as a risky endeavor. To be fair it is. But is there really much more risk involved than attaching your future to the whim and circumstance of someone else’s business? Giving sometimes a decade to an employer only to get laid off from downsizing, or in the case of this year a global pandemic. Starting over and over, in new jobs each time investing your life to build someone else’s dream. From what I’ve seen it seems “job security” has gone the way of the Dodo.
Here’s our example of risk taking.
Going into 2020 my partner Sabrina and myself were in LA working as a makeup artist and music producer. Obviously these are careers you don’t enter into without taking some pretty significant risks. We moved to California from Florida unsure of how to get into those industries. No contacts to speak of and very little money. 7 years later, Sabrina had signed with Wilhelmina agency, and I had a Billboard #1, music in film, worked with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and a growing career in the music industry.
We’ve all heard the saying, “With great risk often comes great reward”. Of course there’s always set backs, and pivots, and sometimes you have to start all over. Some call it a leap of faith. I call it a leap of belief. Belief that you can and will do this. Risk is just one of the ingredients it takes to be successful.
When Covid hit, it was like we ran into a wall. We found ourselves essentially without income and facing some serious moments of introspection. Here’s where that “risk” comes in again. We took stock of our situation and decided to shift gears and use our skills and passions to create a new business. In October of this year we took every last dime we had, and again chose to invest in ourselves. Combining Sabrina’s knowledge of naturopathy and cosmetics with my love of vintage and custom clothing to create Sun City Rags. Is it daunting at times? Yes. Is there a chance it could fail? Yes. But I figure if we do go down… I rather be at the helm knowing we gave it everything we had, than to be a passenger on someone else’s ship.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We started Sun City Rags with the idea of creating and sharing the things we love with others. The majority of our goods are handmade by us, and everything we do starts from that place of sincerity, love and authenticity. If it’s not something we personally would use or wear, we won’t sell it. In many ways our business is an extension of us.

We both love the style and environmental awareness that the 1970’s gave birth to. We do our best to ensure every decision we make as a business is respectful to the environment, cruelty free and in some way gives to others. Our products contain no harmful chemicals, no animal testing and we donate money from each purchase to the Dig Deep foundation to bring clean running water to indigenous tribes and other Americans in need. It’s shocking to think that in 2020 there’s still Americans without access to these basic human needs. An issue that has been amplified during the pandemic.
We’re currently at the end of our soft launch and I think one of the most exciting things is seeing how these items we make are bringing joy to people we’ve never met. At a time when we are all so drastically isolated, we’re connecting with people. That’s an incredible gift. A close second for me would be watching my first one-of-one collection jackets sell out in record time. I think we’re both still very excited about that and looking forward to bringing out the second collection early 2021.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
That’s easy! We’re regulars at Musso&Frank on Hollywood Blvd. and we take everyone who visits there. It’s been there for 100 years and thr staff there is like an extended family.

We both love Joshua tree so we’d have to bounce over there for at least an overbite. There’s something so other worldly about that landscape. And we love all the unique shops.
We’d have to take a trip to Abbott Kinney in Venice to support all the small businesses there.
We love to go Hiking in Griffith Park by the old zoo. For anyone that’s never been to LA it’s so cool to be up in the mountains looking over the whole city. The zoo is pretty creepy and badass in it’s own right too.
Without a doubt Sabrina would take you disco dancing at Oil Can Henry’s.
Wildlife Learning Center is a must! Rescue Animals that now have a great home. You can actually connect your smile.amazon.com account to donate to them. (hint hint).
The Pikey was a great place to grab a drink and just hang.. unfortunately the closed due to Covid.
We’d have to hit up the Grove for some great food.
There’s so much to do and see… we’ve worn ourselves out many times entertaining visitors.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
If it wasn’t for the love & support of our friends and family, I don’t think there would be a Sun City Rags.

Our families, Gabe & Naheed Nunez, Dina Epstein & michael frosti zernow, Angela Bess & Eric Racy, Tim & Sayara Landen, Gracen Hill, Caleb Herring, Anthony Minassian…

Website: www.suncityrags.com
Instagram: @suncityrags
Facebook: /suncityrags

Image Credits
photos by: Anthony Minassian

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.