A heart for Paradise

Photo by Andre Byik

The design has become a ubiquitous symbol of Camp Fire solidarity. Found attached to car windows, worn on T-shirts and transferred to Klean Kanteen bottles, the outline of California with superimposed images of a pine tree and a heart placed upon the North State is the basis for 8th Street Clothing, started by husband and wife team Zac and Karen Acker. The Ackers—who attended Chico State and also own 12 Volt Tattoo on East Eighth Street in Chico—said the design was born in the tattoo shop during the first few days after the fire broke out. Zac, a tattoo artist for 21 years, posted it on social media and “it just kind of took off from there,” says Karen, who works at the University Police Department. “People lined up at the door before we opened, calling, emailing, social media, [asking], ‘How can we get this? We need this.’ We had stores contacting us. It was out of control.” Contestants have worn the design in such competitions as American Ninja Warrior and the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York, and the Ackers have paid the success forward with various donations benefiting Camp Fire recovery efforts. Merchandise from 8th Street Clothing can be found at Made in Chico, Coast Board Shop in the Chico Mall, Timeless Treasures in Paradise and online at etsy.com/shop/ButteStrong. Zac and Karen recently met the CN&R at 12 Volt to talk shop.

How did you handle the instant popularity and demand?

Karen: It was overwhelming at first. We couldn’t keep up. We would get stuff printed and we would say, “OK, we need this,” and we were having it printed locally. “Do it just as fast as possible,” and by the time it was ready, [everything was] already pre-sold.

Zac: We would drop off boxes straight from the printer to retail.

Karen: It was still warm and people were in a line for them.

Why do you think the design has resonated with people?

Karen: I think it’s the aesthetic. If you are from this area, went through the fire in any capacity and you see that—it’s just immediate what it means. It doesn’t need explanation. It doesn’t need any words. It doesn’t need a lot of detail. It just kind of is like, that’s Paradise. It’s going to rise again. It’s bigger than anything else.

What types of merchandise do you offer?

Karen: We have sweatshirts. We have hats. We have T-shirts, tank tops for women. We have some wood carvings. Key chains—those have been very popular. The basic decals. We have Klean Kanteens and tattoos.

What’s on the horizon for 8th Street Clothing?

Zac: I really don’t know. It just depends on where it goes. I don’t really have any plans, but it just seems to keep feeding itself. So as long as that’s going, we’ll be around.

Karen: Locally inspired art is kind of what we’ve figured out is important to people. It’s important to us, too.