March 18, 2013 – by Jesse Crow
If you’ve ever walked on the sidewalk in front of the Fondren Corner building, chances are you’ve seen a stocky blue heeler, Zero, standing outside the entrance to Swell-O-Phonic. And, chances are Zero is one of the reasons you decide to enter the store.
Once inside, you’re surrounded by walls full of T-shirts. Some poke fun at various Jackson neighborhoods or instill a sense of nostalgia for parts of Jackson’s past, like the Recovery Room or the Green Derby. You’ll also find multiple stacks of shoes, skateboards and a male and female boutique.
Swell-O-Phonic, Slavebird and Soma are the culmination of fifteen years of work for Jackson native Ron Chaney, better known as Chane. Chane has been a Fondren business owner for 15 years–15 longer than he expected.
Chane’s ventures in Fondren began March 17, 1998, when he opened Studio Chane by Cups on Old Canton Road. He had a screenprinting studio in the back of the building and sold skateboards in the front.
“I thought I would last maybe a year,” said Chane.
With determination, local support and luck, a snowball effect began and Chane hasn’t looked back.
Six months after Studio Chane began, Chane opened Studio Boutique where he sold tshirts, skateboards, skate shoes and some clothing. Six months later, in March 1999, the screenprinting studio moved to a different location in Fondren, allowing Studio Boutique to expand.
In November 1999, Chane opened Soma, a women’s clothing store. He opened Dwello, a furniture and home furnishings store, in May 2000 in a loft apartment in the Fondren Corner building.
“At that point we were in five locations in Fondren at one time,” he said.
Now, Chane’s businesses are all located in the Fondren Corner building. Swell-O-Phonic (skateboards, bikes, skate shoes and T-shirts), Slavebird (men’s clothing) and Soma (women’s clothing) are located in the same space on the first floor. Studio Chane screenprinting is on the basement level.
Throughout 15 years of businesses, the influence of skateboarding and skate culture has tied his businesses together–either in products offered or decor of the stores. Before becoming a businessman, Chane was a skateboarder and BMX racer.
“Skate and BMX were my roots before I ever dreamed of the store. It will always be a part of my life,” he said. “There’s a different attitude for skate and skate clothing.”
Having a skate shop also increases the exclusivity of the products carried.
“To get access to some brands, you have to own a skate shop for at least a year. Because of this we have items you can’t find anywhere else in the state in our store,” said Chane.
Chane’s newest store is Slavebird, a men’s boutique. Most of the brands offered are subdivisions of skateboard lines. Slavebird carries shoe brands like Element Emerald and Clark’s and clothing brands like Vans Off the Wall and Alternative Apparel.
“In Slavebird, there’s some influence from New York City, but mainly I wanted to create a store for someone who shops the way I do, who doesn’t want to spend a whole lot of money,” he said.
Chane is taking Soma, his women’s clothing store, in a new direction.
“We’re thickening up the product and getting more experimental. It has a sophisticated edge, a street edge,” he said. “We’re not trying to be a boutique; they’re too many out there and they’re all the same.”
Chane is also releasing 100 new T-shirt designs this year at Swell-O-Phonic. Four designs came from a collaboration with subSIPPI (an exploratory document about Mississippi), and new youth and Jackson series designs are on the shelves.
Chane’s stores have been in Fondren since the beginning and he and Zero have no intentions of leaving the neighborhood.
“The obvious thing we love about Fondren is the individuality. The Swell concept is to not fit in and to always stand out. We also have what we would think of as roots to a culture Fondren in known for,” he said. ”We wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else. Once you’ve had the best you don’t want anything else.”
During the day, Crow works full-time for Chane, which made her the perfect insider to get the scoop. You can find her most days in the basement level of Fondren Corner at Studio Chane.