Cali cool + Florida kitsch = UNIV

 

UNIV brings cool kitsch and California skater flavor to Miami Beach's South of Fifth neighborhood.

Kicks and decks surround Mark Gamez, one of UNIV's owners. Photo: Donna E. Natale Planas

If you peek inside UNIV , you'll see sneakers spinning atop turntables, old Florida artifacts on walls and shelves, and plenty of trendy hard-to-find apparel and accessories.

UNIV is short for universal because the store makes the case that it caters to men, women and children of all walks of life. The shop specializes in streetwear brands like Irons, Coup De Grace, Mike and Crooks & Castles. There are also jeans, T-shirts, hoodies and dress shirts with the UNIV label. Items range from $20 to $125.

Miami resident Mark Gamez owns the store with California buddies Mirko Mangum, 33, Tim Swart, 38, and TV personality Sal Masekela, 34, best known for hosting E channel's Daily 10 and ESPN's X Games.

Gamez runs the Miami shop, while Mangum and Swart separately co-own and operate the original UNIV shop, in Encinitas, Calif.

Masekela in particular loved the idea of bringing UNIV to Miami: "My reaction was, 'Let's get our game on!' he said in a phone interview. "I think Miami is a great place to open up a store like this because it's a city with so much style and flavor."

The store's decor is kitschy. Gamez, 33, said they worked hard to make it that way -- and customers love it.

"Besides the alligator heads and the poster of Anita Bryant, it reminds a lot of people of their abuelos or grandparent's basement in the 1970s." The quadruplet met in San Diego some 15 years ago while working in the action sports industry and sharing a love for skating, and surfing -- hobbies reflected in the UNIV label's California aesthetic.

It's a look that clicks with locals like Albert Guilarte, 37, who honed in on a Crooks & Castles T- emblazoned with a handgun and wings.

"A lot of the brands here you aren't going to see in a mall, " said Guilarte, of Coral Gables. "Plus the prices are reasonable."

Coming up with ideas for the UNIV brand isn't difficult, Mangum said.

"It's easy to make stuff you want to wear yourself."

UNIV, 100 Collins Ave., No. 2, No. 3, Miami Beach, UNIV-Shop.com.

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