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An Escondido Native Paints The Town

Escondido’s welcome sign painted by Kingcade

Zane Kingcade is celebrating 20 years as a business owner in Escondido. His store, Street Life on Grand Avenue, is a staple for artists, creatives, and young kids who know when they walk into Kingcade’s store, they will find art supplies, graphic t-shirts, high fashion items, and original artwork by Kingcade himself. It’s an eclectic mix of everything art-related that may draw people in, but it’s also the atmosphere that keeps them coming back. If it’s just a conversation that a customer wants or a place to hang out for the afternoon, Kingcade welcomes this too. “I tell people this is not just a store. It’s kind of a social club,” Kingcade said. “Normally there’s music playing, and people will stop by, poke their head in and just hang out.” 

The window front of Street Life on Grand Avenue

Kingcade has made Street Life into a gathering place for everyone who wants to be part of Escondido’s art and street fashion scene. Growing up a skater in Escondido, he found his calling as an artist in an unconventional way. In high school, he would make everything from party flyers to specialty t-shirts. This expanded from a side business to a cart at a local flea market, and then an actual community business. Kingcade said he would make everything from shirts with his own graphic designs on them to shirts for family reunions or Sadie Hawkins dances. “Once I got a sticker machine, it was over. Probably every kid who lived in Escondido at some point came to my store and had stickers made for their cars.” 

Eight years ago Kingcade opened his store on Grand Avenue and expanded it into the art shop it is today. But it’s not just his shop that is making a mark on the city. Kingcade is one of the most prominent mural artists in the city. “People come in here and they say, ‘oh it’s a great store,’ but they don't know that I paint a lot of the signs and murals around town.”

Kingcade’s appreciation for graffiti art has crossed over into mural art. He said, “I am really trying to leave a mark on the town.” 

 In Escondido, look down alleyways, or even the wall at Cute Cakes, and you will see his work.  Another Escondido business that displays Kingcade’s designs is Rosemary-Duff Florist, the local floral shop well-known in the bridal community for their exquisite bridal designs. Its location, which faces 2nd Avenue, a main thoroughfare, is a space often displaying Kingcade’s mural designs.

Christmastime mural painted on the wall at Rosemary-Duff Florist 

“When I graduated high school, I worked there for five or six years,” said Kingcade, who also designs and creates large scale murals around Encinitas that represent the spirit of the hip coastal city and the flavors of the businesses where they are displayed.

For holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas, Kingcade designs and creates themed murals that bring both locals and fans who not only appreciate the art but also take pictures in front of them. What started out as an advertisement for the florist shop has become a tradition. “Everybody comes to take family pictures in front of it and it caught on, so now it’s every holiday.”

Back in the shop, Kingcade’s smaller-scale artwork is displayed throughout the place. With a nod to nostalgia, he has turned everyday objects into works of art. “I do a bit of everything. I do graffiti hip hop style artwork, but I also do vintage-looking old school.

Kingcade nostalgically uses a vintage cash register to make transactions

Uniquely painted frying pans, hand saws, and trays are displayed throughout the shop. Kingcade is open to commissions too. “People bring me the craziest stuff. I’ve had whole car hoods in here and clients wanted their name on it.”

Aside from the murals and commissions, it’s his latest original work that is creating quite a buzz. “The smell of paint attracts bees,” said Kingcade. “We were painting butterflies one time in Ohio - pink butterflies, to look like Monarch butterflies. Pink butterflies don’t exist in nature and we started making purple and pink stuff and I started thinking about what I was doing and the bees started coming up to the art and the art is attracting them.”

Kingcade’s newest installation celebrates the wonder of bees

These pieces blend graffiti-style art with an environmental message. Kingcade explained, “the bees are turquoise, pink, purple, orange. I call it infectious. They are hypercolor bees. They are becoming illuminated by the colors of the graffiti art.” 

Each piece has the words, ‘Save the Bees’ somewhere on it. Honeycomb is blended with graffiti in a way that makes it look almost natural. And the bright bees stand out in each piece as if to proclaim their presence. “So the bees are like nature’s intersection with man and its changing nature.”

For 20 years, Kingcade has been creating art for friends, clients, and customers. And as a proud Escondido native, he hopes to continue to spread the generous spirit of the city he has grown up in. “Anybody can come in here and walk away with something. Whether it’s something I make or purchase, it’s something unique. There’s something for everybody here.” 

Street Life’s high-quality spray paints and art supplies add color to the shelves

Although Kingcade has been in business for two decades, he still can’t believe how fast time has flown. “I have customers that came here when they were like 16. Now they’re well into their thirties and have their own kids. I’m like, wow, dude, where did time go?” 

Kingcade is planning on celebrating his 20th year in business sometime this summer to coincide with Crusin’ Grand. Visit Street Life at 254 East Grand Avenue in Escondido.  Keep up with Kingcade on Facebook and Instagram.

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