A new home for local creatives to showcase and sell their products has opened in Waco, and after two weeks, it is already selling out of products.

Housed in the space formerly occupied by What About Cupcakes, Will Suarez and Emmanuel “Manny” Cardenas, of High Def Marketing, have started a new venture.

The One O Eight, aptly located at 108 N. 25th St. in Waco, features retail space for artists to display and market their works, with room for offices, work space and seating areas. With High Def Marketing housed in the back of the space, the venue is also able to offer photography, video, animation, printing, social media marketing and embroidery.

Suarez said High Def Marketing is at the point where it has the time and energy to try to give back to locals trying to find their place in the creative world. Suarez said he knows a lot of Waco-area individuals who create art in a variety of media that he loves, but they lack a venue to showcase and sell their work without daunting overhead costs.

The One O Eight offers retail space for free and keeps 20 percent of sales while returning 80 percent to the creators, Suarez said. Returning a higher percentage to the artist helps them create new products faster and have the money to invest in themselves and hopefully produce higher-quality work, he said.

Nine locals had products on the shelves for the opening two weeks ago, and the list is already growing, with more individuals ready to display their work, he said.

Opening the shop is a dream come true, Cardenas said.

The duo want to help the city grow and promote part of what makes it great, he said.

Waco resident Cristian Martinez said he met the owners of The One O Eight through Mark Rockwell, a former Wacoan. They both have work displayed in the new retail shop.

“After Mark left town — he’s living in Boston at the moment — me and Will just started going out for pizza and started talking about this dream of essentially being able to bring artistic products to people here in Waco without necessarily having to go through another outlet,” Martinez said.

Most people are unwilling to take the risk of opening their own retail location or letting another store sell their products because the return on investment isn’t there, said Martinez, who has lived in Waco since 2005.

While Martinez owns Waco Forever, he opted to use the opportunity to showcase more personal work.

“I’m trying to create things that I think inspire and things that I love and things that aren’t bound by any advice or input from anybody else,” he said.

His shirts on display recognize the town he has come to love.

Fallen in love with city

Martinez said he moved to Waco in 2005 with the intention of a short stay. But in the past couple of years, he has fallen in love with the city, Martinez said.

“It’s not the same Waco that I stepped into. I’ve grown to truly love it, everything about it, now that I have a little bit of experience,” he said. “The school system, the community here, the genuine love that people have for each other, it’s unreal. I thought when I first got here that Austin, which is where I’m from, is all that. But there’s just something special about Waco.”

Between 200 and 300 people showed up for The One O Eight’s grand opening in the 1,800-square-foot building, Suarez said.

He was really excited to see Waco Councilman Dillon Meek, who represents North Waco, pop in, he said.

Meek, who lives “a stone’s throw away,” was taking out his trash when he noticed familiar faces in a nearby crowd. Meek said he had been following The One O Eight on Instagram for a while but didn’t realize the grand opening had already arrived. He soon found himself among the large mass of guests.

Meek said he is thrilled that something cool has moved into that location. He said he is continuing to look into how to improve the North 25th Street area and support all the local businesses along that stretch as the city continues to grow and flourish.

T-shirt design

Suarez is also a partner with Sal Velasco in Epitome, which has T-shirts available at The One O Eight.

Velasco said he designed a retro Waco design, and the duo printed several of the images and shirts. They quickly ran out and need to make more.

“It’s great. Honestly, I feel awesome,” Velasco said. “When we had the opening, it was great because we didn’t know what kind of turnout to expect, but there was so many people that stopped by. A city council member stopped by, and that was really cool. It was pretty awesome.”

While there may be a lot of Waco-inspired shirts around the area, Velasco said, the retro design helps the product stand out.

And like many of the artists featured at The One O Eight, Velasco said he has grown to love the city of Waco and is proud to call the area home.

Also featured in the new store is Zach Rankin’s recently launched project, Ezekiel Leather Co.

Rankin said this is his first time to display his work, and he is fulfilling a dream. Rankin produces bracelets, bookmarks, wallets, clutches, makeup bags and more out of leather in a style he said runs between rustic and clean-cut.

“Leather working was more of a hobby for me,” he said. “Of course, I’ve thought I would love to get something off the ground but never had the opportunity. I’d be a fool to miss this opportunity.”

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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