The Cannery: A Historical Community of San Jose Arts and Culture Prepares to Say Goodbye

The Cannery is about to shut its doors for good. Known for its historical production of canning fruits and vegetables from the late 1800's well into the late 90's, it has also played a major role in San Jose's most shape shifting facets of arts and culture, from bicycles to rapping to street fashion. Daniel Zapien and Andrew Bigelow interviewed some of the folks saying their last goodbyes.

Peter Enright
Phil Woods & Company
Interview By Daniel Zapien

Q: Manufacturing in this Valley is not what it used to be?

Peter Enright: No it’s not. Do you remember FHC? of course you don’t (laughs) They produced all of the tools and equipment for the orchards. IBM was a big company. It was called the womb to tomb company because when you got there, you were set for life. No company is like that anymore. It was a different Valley a while back.

Q- How long has Phil Wood been in business?

P- Since 1971. I think we’ve been here about 21 years. When we found this place, Gordon Biersch hadn’t been built yet.

Q- Phil Woods makes specific bicycle parts that go around the world to Japan, China and elsewhere. Tells us about that.

P- We make bicycle hubs, bicycle components and bicycle tools. We ship all over the world, maybe 5,000 customers international. We ship to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, all over Europe.. We’re very fortunate. Everything we sell, we make here.

Q- You’ve been here for 21 years. You’ve seen this change a lot. Can you talk about that?

P- It's perfect for us because we are not really a flamboyant company. We don’t need fancy shmancy carpets, showroom, over lights, mahogany desks (laughs). All the extra money we have, we focus that into equipment and better tools to use.

It’s a perfect fit: It’s not pretentious, enables you to get work done and be left alone from the rest of society (laughs). We can do really good work here.

Q- With the Cannery closing, what does that mean for the company and its culture?

P- We knew it was going to close eventually. But to move all this equipment is going to take a while. It’ll be too bad to leave here. One thing we still do is that all of our material must be made here in the U.S.

Q- Being here for over 20 years and they're going to build these apartments, is there a feeling of displacement?

P- No, not really. We have a job to do here and we’ll do it. We just know when we leave, others will be moving in.


Daniel Martinez aka Dirtbag Dan
San Jose Emcee
Interview by Daniel Zapien

Q- There’s a lot of culture here in Cannery Row, a lot of history, too. Could you speak on that?

D- My Grandpa Martinez  worked one of the Canneries. San Jose in so many ways is not industrial at all but it’s just like a sea of humanity in between all these tech companies. It’s cool that this is one of the last bits of real working San Jose. I’ve been here for over two years.

Q- Why did you chose to move to the Cannery?

D- The Cannery was a logical move for us because we had so many friends that were already here. We had CLOUT, our buddy Chris and Breezy Excursion — we already knew a lot of people just through Hip Hop. Also, Jerry the Hermit was here. A lot of our friends had similar situations set up here, from small rooms that were 400 square ft. to big warehouses.

Q- Definitely seems like a lot of culture has been built here.

D- Before we were here, Phil Emerson was in the parking lot that was the whole reason we came here. He did all of our photography and our graphics. We came here because of him and he has since moved on. I’ve definitely seen people come and go. I mean, people get grandfathered into spots. People be like “I’m leaving but if you want the spot, Ill set it up and you take over the lease.” It sucks, but at the end of the day, it’s going to promote growth for us. We are going to have to be better.

Q- What are your general thoughts on the change?

D- It sucks, but it’s just the way of the world. There's so much opportunity out here because of all these tech companies, because of Facebook and Google and Netflix and so on. It’s not IBM, where it’s going to become essentially outdated technology I’ve seen it happen all around the Bay Area. It’s only natural that it happens to us.


Ricky Tumamao and FLIP Christian Lilleland
Breezy Excursion
(Breezy Interviews by Andrew Bigelow)

Q- What is Breezy?

Ricky: Breezy excursion is a streetwear brand. We make clothes, we make gear.. We are probably one of the hottest brands out of SJ… up to date.

Flip: Clout was here, Shorty Fatz, and Phil Wood was here.. as soon as we moved in we didn't really know anybody. Right when we moved in, we wanted to come in and make friends and work with people. So we started off with making a custom bike with Shorty Fatz, and from there, what we started doing here, was sharing a space with booger kidz.

Q- What do you think is the Cannery’s contribution to San Jose? And what is Breezy’s role in that?

Ricky: What it meant to me was, this is where you get the gear… where you get the bikes, the clothes, this where you get to see the artist… and no matter what anybody says, the Cannery is a big deal.. a lot of big things came out of here… this is like home to me.

Flip: I think the fact that we were always partying made people want to come hang out. And I think that really cultivated the scene in here where people started coming more and more, which spread that this was a place where you can go buy clothes. We started expanding, and we turned this little beat up warehouse, little office space... and turned it into a culturally huge spot for our city.

Q- In terms of SJ culture, what do you think this place has done for it?

FLIP: One of our anniversary parties we threw...there was about 1,500-2,000 people in the parking lot, not knowing we needed permits and security. And we would have never even threw something that big, or that type of party, knowing how much money it takes to put into it, to properly do it.. And because of this, we grew a bigger buzz and whether it was us, or if the cannery made us this way, it facilitated each others growth. It’s going to suck to see this place go.

Q- And it’s a community here..

Ricky: There is so much respect for eachother, I had come here so young, and I have been gamed up by all these people. Everybody here influenced me in their own certain way, Abel as an artist, Sam Rodriguez doing what he did with Shorty Fatz to doing his thing with Cukui, to Complex Magazine. A lot of people here are big players and I feel as the community in San Jose, as for art, music, and all of that. If you’re making any noise in San Jose, you have stepped your foot in Cannery park for some sort of reason.

Q- So for this place to shut down… What does it mean?

Flip: For this place to shut down really means, it's on to the next. As much as I love the cannery, as I love my neighbors, I’m excited to see what is next after this. We’ve already built the cannery, and as much as we all already know it’s going to be gone, everybody is still a family. Everybody that is still here, have all connected, got work done. We partied, we laughed, cried. I’m sad to see that it’s going to be gone, but like, it is what it is. I don’t have no hard feelings or none, and I’m sure everybody feels the same.

Q- Do you think San Jose is losing something with the Cannery being shut down -culturally, or business wise?

Ricky: It is a landmark, but I don’t think it is losing anything by shutting this down.. cause every one from here is so gamed up on some other sh**, everybody here is talented and that’s all I’m saying. I feel everybody has love for the city, and I don’t think that’ll ever die down for us. So as long as we still keep that love for what we do, and for the city, whether its the citadel, japantown, the cannery, or downtown, like we just got love for SJ… and it’s time for a change. We’ve had our times here, its been 5 years, it’s just up to a bigger platform from here.

Cause I know all these guys have plans for what's the next move...


About Andrew Bigelow

Andrew Bigelow is a Hip Hop artist as well as a writer and organizer with SiliconValley De-Bug. Follow him on social media as @HeIsAndrewBigs

About Daniel Zapien

Daniel Zapien is a San Jose native photojournalist who has worked for DeBug for over 5 years. He runs the youth editorials teaching how to tell your story through writing and documentary stroytelling through video and photography.

This article is part of the categories: Arts & Culture  / Community  / San Jose//South Bay 
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