First with a creative agency and now retail, the brothers Cooley take their unique brand of storytelling to a wider audience.
“We’ve always followed a mix of passion and opportunity,” says Colin Cooley, co-founder with Brian Cooley of Wicked+, a creative agency and marketing and design firm based in Hermosa Beach. Storytelling, the two point out, is the driving force behind the business.
Together the brothers share a love for design, public relations and revealing a brand’s many layers. According to the duo, they take on a new client because they believe in the brand’s story or message.
A couple years ago the Cooleys took that personal concept a step further with the “modern-day general store” Wicked+ and a brand new store launched in 2014, Beach & Beverly—a women’s clothing boutique. Both stores feature clothing and everyday products that they, or their families, personally enjoy or derive inspiration from.
The Cooley brothers grew up in Florida, and they note that their father—a salesman specializing in semi-truck parts and accessories—was an enormous influence. He was, as Brian puts it, a “one-man shop for 20+ years,” and his views on owning a business and salesmanship profoundly impacted the Cooley brothers’ career choices. In the late ‘90s, after their father’s passing, the two decided to start their own business.
Colin, who at the time was a corporate attorney, wanted to leave the legal field and explore the entertainment industry. During law school, he notes, many of his friends were musicians. He saw that “a lot of bands were trying to make it and market themselves.” So in 1999, he and Brian—a former municipal bonds trader and advertising executive—started Wicked PR in Atlanta, Georgia, with the main focus of marketing music acts, bands and music events.
After delving into the music industry, the two began to broaden their business, taking new public relations opportunities as they came, even if they were outside their traditional zones of expertise. As long as the opportunity was interesting and the brand or client’s story was engaging, they took it on. From representing poker professionals to working with clients in the food industry (such as Johnsonville Foods and Krystal), the clients varied widely.
“We’ve always been drawn to people and brands we liked and the stories they told,” says Colin. “If we liked their story and we thought we were the best person to tell their story, then we found them appealing.”
Eventually the brothers transitioned away from the music scene and became a more public relations-driven company and creative agency. In the 2000s they changed the company’s name to Wicked+ and delved into blogging, web design and content creation.
They relocated to the South Bay and continued to take on clients they believed in. They’ve since developed marketing for luxury real estate brokerage The Agency and have ongoing business with Terranea Resort, the World Poker Tour, Partners Trust and restaurants like Día de Campo and Little Sister.
The business took an experimental turn when the brothers decided to open Wicked+ in 2011 on Pier Avenue in Hermosa. At one point, they note, the company used the site of the current store as an office space. They usually left the front door open, which led to passersby popping in and treating the office like a store.
“People started walking in and saying, ‘How much is this chair? This lamp?’” says Brian. So the two decided to change the office into an actual retail space, stocking it with items they found inspirational or aesthetically pleasing.
“The common thread is that they’re all everyday essentials,” says Brian, noting that the compact store carries a range of items, from shaving accessories to shoes. The creative agency often doesn’t represent the brands the store carries, but the brothers simply enjoying showcasing items that they find unique or pleasing. The store carries Deus Ex Machina apparel, Baxter of California shave accessories and skin care products, Bar Nine coffee, Topo Ranch clothing and more.
With a general store decidedly male-centric, the brothers opened Beach & Beverly, also on Pier Avenue, for women. The shop offers women’s clothing from brands such as For Love & Lemons and Apolis, along with other products such as bath and home accessories.
The brothers, who both live in Hermosa with their families, are happy to keep sharing their clients’ stories with the world and the South Bay. Both Brian and Colin feel Wicked+ and its stores fit nicely within the community.
The South Bay as a whole, they say, is warm and family-friendly, and they find the area’s approachable vibe to be inspirational. In fact, thanks to the South Bay’s easygoing nature, it’s all too common to drum up a new PR opportunity while chatting with a customer in the general store.
“You never know who’s going to walk through that door,” says Colin, gesturing at the Wicked+ general store’s door. “Especially when you live somewhere as great as here and you have celebrities, CEOs and company founders just walking in.”