Lifetime of positivity channeled into business
SPRINGFIELD – When Brian Kitchen moved to Oregon, he felt out of place. In a new town, in a new state, he struggled to find people who looked like him, or community spaces that felt welcoming — so he decided to build one.
“Living in Eugene, I didn’t see a lot of people like me,” he said. “But here, I see little Black kids, little Mexican kids, walking to the store every day. And that’s when I realized this is the area that needs me the most.”
His company, OG Studios, comes from a lifetime of resilience and positivity — a brainchild of the Covid pandemic, the studio hopes to be a wellness space for all, but especially people of color.
“When I started OG, I was thinking about how to create stability for the Black community in this area,” he said. “And we didn’t have a footprint, we didn’t have a hub. We really didn’t have anything.”
The studio, off of the corner of 14th and Main, boasts a custom hair-threading salon, a clothing store, a screen-printing studio, yoga and fitness classes, and even a photography studio. It’s a creative community space, a place to grow and heal — an opportunity for anyone and everyone to build something new.
A longtime personal trainer and fitness coach, Kitchen wanted to create a yoga studio that highlighted the work and impact of non-white instructors.
“When it comes to yoga, a lot of my friends don’t feel welcome in most studios,” he said. “Taking care of your body and mind shouldn’t be about race. It should be about caring for yourself, cultivating who you want to be.”
Further down the line, Kitchen plans to host date nights, barbecues, and partner with local schools to create a mentorship program for students in the area.
“So, OG, Original Gangster,” he started. “The OGs were for their community; sure, it took on other meanings down the line. But first, they were for their people. And that’s what I symbolize. I’ve been all kinds of things over the years. I need to share what I’ve been through, and what I’ve learned with my people.”
A former resident of Santa Rosa, Calif., his life was permanently altered by the devastating impact of the 2017 Tubbs wildfire, which burned through Sonoma County, destroying over 5,600 structures and burning almost 37,000 acres.
After the wildfire swept through the area, victims of the disaster banded together to file a lawsuit against PG&E, alleging failure to update aging infrastructure and maintain trees near its power lines caused the fires. After winning their case, many were awarded hefty settlement funds, Kitchen among them. He used those funds to begin fresh, moving to Oregon and opening OG Studios.
“We were awakened at about 2:30 in the morning by our neighbor banging on our door. And we could see fire falling from the sky behind him — not running along the ground, but falling from the sky,” Kitchen said. “So we came here, to start up somewhere new, away from the trauma that we all experienced there. We came up here, with the mindset of looking around and creating a footprint in the community.”
During the Covid pandemic, Kitchen was inspired to create a clothing line from his home — OG Threads. His first project? Passing out 500 masks to the unhoused.
“We passed out over 500 masks to the homeless around here,” he said. “And that’s what got the ball rolling, we knew there was a need and people came from everywhere.”
OG Threads was cheered on by his fiance, Melissa, whose portrait hangs in the building. She lost her life to long-Covid, and is the catalyst for much of Kitchen’s drive to keep going.
“The only thing I was able to do was practice positivity,” he said. “She shifted my energy. And all of this is in honor of her, she kept me strong, she kept me motivated. I stopped asking why, why the fires, why the loss — I just had to keep going. There’s no room for it to give up, the only thing that we can do is just keep moving forward. I will continue to lead by example.”
OG Studios’ grand opening and open house will begin on Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. continuing through Feb. 25.
“Our focus is on bringing the community together through affordable fitness and functional wellness, dance, yoga, and meditation,” Kitchen said. “The rest is up to the people who walk through our door.”