When Athan Loukakis, a teenage boy from Greece, arrived in Manitou Springs as a foreign exchange student many years ago, it never occurred to him that he would become a long-time resident of Colorado, leaving behind the beloved culture and extravagant beauty of the Mediterranean. While in Colorado, Athan met his wife, Paula, a native to the state, who grew up with her family in Pueblo. Her grandfather was a local grocery store owner. Athan’s family was also in business for themselves, proprietors of a restaurant back in Greece. As a result, both Athan and Paula were used to the lifestyle and unique stresses of a family-run venture. So when they both became frustrated with the dangers and disappointments of their jobs, they walked away from the drudgery of working for someone else and entered into the adventure of entrepreneurship.
A EUROPEAN FLAIR
It all started with the used Levi jeans craze of the 90’s. Athan, being a resourceful and creative person, saw the potential of that wave and joined in on it from a wholesale perspective. He did well enough to open up a business space in downtown Colorado Springs, and then a few years later his wife Paula joined him, and they eventually turned their business into a retail boutique, originally named State of Mind, now called Bang Bang.
Bang Bang, he shot me down… Bang Bang, I hit the ground… Bang Bang, that awful sound… Bang Bang, my baby shot me down.
Paula recalls with affection how Athan always had an eccentric flair for men’s fashion and, in the early years, would stand outside the store, his olive skin dark from the summer sun, dressed in the latest European styles, with his hat on, looking to engage in long conversations with passersby and customers – a habit learned from Greek culture back home of a laid back lifestyle and long talks on the patio. For many years their store continued to cater to men’s fashion and over time, Paula added more and more of a women’s selection, keeping to the edgy European styles and trend of the day.
Athan and Paula wanted to be different than other boutiques, and they still are. In the beginning, they marketed to the younger crowd, those who enjoyed “clubbing” or the military who were used to the European pizzazz. The boutique focused on jeans, hats, and other club wear. Business was booming, and they found a niche for themselves. It became a perfect fit for this couple. They love serving people, and their customers are loyal. Paula and Athan reach out and serve the people that many others shy away from – everyone is welcome. It also gives Athan a place to express his creativity by designing and building fixtures, as well as writing and selling his own delightful children’s books.
A NEW DAY, A NEW AGE
September 11, 2001, was life-altering for our entire nation. No one seemed to be immune from the effects of a madman’s rage in New York City and beyond. Even a tiny boutique in the middle of the country felt the impact of that dreadful day.
Suddenly the younger crowd was no longer shopping, and the military personnel and their families had other things on their mind. Athan and Paula noticed a shift in buying habits as the atmosphere of small retail changed for everyone.
Many “mom and pop” businesses did not survive the changes after 9/11 and the economic downturn of 2008, but Athan and Paula made it through and are enjoying a larger space on Tejon Street, just around the corner from their previous location. Exposed brick walls, original hardwood floors, Athan’s own industrial lighting designs, and exposed duct work add to the European flair of this boutique. They are still a place to find the atypical. It seems like most shops are starting to look so similar that they blend into one another, yet Bang Bang continues to stand out from the crowd.
On warm days you can still see Athan strolling out in front of the store, observing the people and looking for someone to engage in friendly conversation. The store has expanded their selection, a fashion-forward mix of European styles, modern vintage flair, and a hint of steampunk. There’s even a selection of retro dresses and bags sufficient for a classy Pinup style. Handsome and sophisticated shirts are still available for the men, as well as, swank hats to top off any look.
Bang Bang has been an unassuming downtown fixture for 18 years, since 1999. They have seen boutiques and businesses come and go over time, but have managed to stand firm.
Located at 127 N. Tejon St. in downtown Colorado Springs, Bang Bang is open 7 days a week from 10 am – 6 pm (Mon – Sat), and 12 – 4 pm on Sunday. Come on by to see their full selection of apparel and accessories for men and women. Or you can visit them online at www.bangbangstore.com