Byrd Is The Word
WRITTEN BY: LEE YATES | PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ANH NGUYEN
The city of angels has a rich history fueled by purpose. Fast-forwarding from a start-up settlement to a kingdom of stardom, LA has had the fortune of inhabiting the most driven denizens of the western world. Within one decade in particular, the 1960s saw the bright and glimmering faces of Brian Wilson and Steve McQueen bathe under the spotlight of Tinseltown and the California sun. And although the time and place itself have changed, LA’s dream to dare hasn’t died out yet. Adjacent to the vital vein of Ballona Creek and amongst the industrial landscape of Culver City’s Blackwelder Street, a new hip and happenin’ haven for Angelenos has been founded with that very purpose, or repurpose for that matter. One word: Byrd. (Cue needle drop on a 1963 Thrashmen record) “A-well-a everybody’s heard about the Byrd…(record skips) “Don’t you know about the Byrd? Well, everybody knows that the Byrd is the word!”
Over the course of approximately three months, a business by the name of Byrd and its fine line of hairdo products flew the coop from their nest in Newport Beach and settled into a new perch on the outskirts of Culver City. The Byrd flock is led by professional surfer and “Big Bird” of Echo Beach—Chase Wilson. The aquatic athlete has been in the hairstyling trade since 2012 and has been spreading his wings wider and wider ever since. With a product store in Newport, a partnering craft brewery in San Diego and a new home in the heart of LA’s vast expansion, the Byrd brand has totally taken off, flying with the slick, surfer lifestyle. And it seems slick is what southern California wants. From tide to sidewalk surfers, many sun-drenched, SoCal socialites need the occasional whip of pomade to keep their salt-infused hair durably stable. And with a daily assault of waves, rays and babes, both the past and present LA man has got to keep the waves of his cowlick slick.
The tour of Wilson’s downtown compound begins with a trek down Blackwelder’s dirt and asphalt-paved road. At the end of the bend, the Byrd Development blends naturally within the street’s man-made environment with some of its fully exposed and wired walls. Chase and his team of constant companions continue to build upon their manufactured paradise, but always have a free hand to open their doors for you. Your first steps will be through Byrd’s main workspace and offices. Meticulously scattered are the many designs and products in the works. Each potential item hosts an etched image of Byrd’s other big bird, with its bright lightning streaks of yellow and bold, black outlines. As you make your way to the backdoor of the business building, you are introduced further to their fly, D.I.Y. philosophy. Wilson said, “It may be an industrial area, but on the weekends there’s no one around. We have this huge space to ourselves compared to the compact high- rises downtown. So it’s definitely a unique, free-thinking environment, which is what we like.”
With a design comes purpose, and with redesign comes repurpose. And when it came to Wilson and his band of Byrd brothers, redesigning his dad’s quaint patch of square footage hatched a whole lot more than just some new ideas and a new base of operations, but a new lease on life as well—actually, a new and old lease on life. Unique to the Byrd base is a collection of recycled, reused and repurposed materials. The outdoor patio acts as a portal to the classic world from which Wilson and his flock draws their inspiration. California’s rockin’ and surfing sensations of the early sixties washed the world with the style of dapper deans conquering both surf and turf with their handcrafted boards and horse-powered wheels. Spoken like the revolution they fueled, their style evoked a feeling that could only be described as “cool, ” or as Byrd prefers, “slick.” Across the development lies a different set of dispersed items. Wooden, hand-nailed planters populate the patio, along with bohemian-like benches and a melded rack of antler-like branches with worn and weather wetsuits strung upon it. A fair amount of Byrd’s variety of inhabiting furniture is collected by the surrounding neighborhood of local builders, which even includes Wilson’s own father.
“The tee-pee used to belong to Mariah Carey, ” Chase points out. Even if not- completely recycled, everything at Byrd is reused in some way. Like literal sticks and twigs brought to spruce a nest into a house and that house into a home, Wilson and friends have assorted a set of repurposed furnishings that intertwine a level of natural authenticity to its industrially fabricated skin. Towering over the nest’s fortifying fences rest the main course of its reused spread. Atop two, parallel and 20-foot-long shipping containers sit an additional two, perpendicular and 40-foot- long containers that culminate together as the domestic side of the development. Stained glass and additional metal sheets layer the welded walls of the curated crates. “We got them from a buddy of ours at Long Beach harbor. It’s all repurposed. You can buy them brand new or watertight. So you can see they’re a little used and beat up, but it kind of gives a little bit of character to it, too.”
Chase both examines and admires their just-finished deck that leads into their wide and open living room, complete with cardboard chairs and woven rugs. At each end sit a pair of winding staircases that lead to the second floor bedrooms, each displaying a uniquely brooding personality within the confines of their containers. The pièce de résistance of this cargo conjunction is a room solely dedicated to the hair care that gave the start-up its first big waves. Described as their showroom of sorts for various clients, the official Byrd- house barbershop is the focal point for their new local event, “Slick Saturdays, ” held on the second Saturday of every month. Describing the event he explains, “Yeah it is exciting. It’s kind of a big party that we all have, you know, with house-made beer, cocktails, sponsors, clients and friends. At our first one, we had a good turnout. It was about 150 people. We had two barbers set up in our shop giving complimentary haircuts and we even had a live band play. We love bringing everyone together for just a good time.”
Along with his dad, the birds of a feather flying together with Chase also include his best friends and business partners, Scott Wilson and John Hechtkopf. Aside from having a few extra hands to manufacture more manmade decor and decorations, Scott carefully crafts Byrd’s classically slick image product by product while John records the vintage age Byrd is reinventing with a vengeance.
Wilson’s partnering brewery in San Diego is the Saint Archer Brewing Co. Saint Archer understands that the craft beer experience happens where art and science meet. Their company was founded on a unique strain of creative talent, including: World-class brewers, artists and musicians, professional surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders.
Other amenities include some designated closet space, a wide open range for storage, and a big, blue-tiled bathroom with an added washer and dryer that keeps each Byrd-bachelor’s feathers fresh for each new day at work next door. And with that little slice of life lies the core of Wilson’s way of soaring day to day. Becoming an adult these days requires a lot more preoccupations to devote your time to. Whether you’re a surfer who is also a business owner and also a part-time builder, or any other combination of miscellaneous masteries, the modern man’s identity can be stretched in a whole mess of directions. With the diversified Byrd Development being a space of both work and play, Wilson finds it easier to keep his dynamic life balanced and in check. “Things just happened very organically. It seemed like the next natural step was to move up here and build the connections I needed to, along with this place, while still being close to the beach and my current connections down South.”
And while Chase’s diversified life of a multifaceted professional surfer may be a bit unique, peers and younger ones alike can all relate to exploring a range of roles in one’s road to self-discovery. Given that, Byrd’s beautiful new nest crosses coupling realms and purposeful reasons into one plotted spot. Regardless if the purpose is business, building, bumming it, or barbering it, Wilson’s birdie business is leading the rise of the city’s downtown revitalization through its expanding arts district connections. “The area of Culver City is turning around. If you go downtown there are a lot of cool restaurants, art galleries, you name it. I think it’s a pretty central part of LA, and not just geographically. Things are happening, ” says Wilson.
With such a wave of resurgence barreling through the asphalt canals of LA’s heavy- driven dominion, news of Byrd’s Culver City oasis is spreading quickly. Swing by a second, slick, 60s Saturday and see for yourself why Byrd is really the word.