Palm Springs Spotlight: Meet the Couple behind Shag
Jay Nailor and MiShell Modern, owners of The Shag Store
By Barbara Beckley
Shag! His works epitomize the Palm Springs lifestyle. Hip. Retro-modern. Stylish. From crazy cool prints and paintings to posters for events from Modernism to Gay Pride – the 2020 Modernism Week Poster by Shag is newly released October 17 – and merchandise from socks to record players, the artistry of Shag (aka Josh Agle) defines Palm Springs.
How Did This Happen?
Blame it on a Palm Springs’ Modernism Show long, long ago. And local modernism enthusiasts -- Jay Nailor and MiShell Modern.
Rewind to 2003. Jay is on the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (PSPF) board. Josh had created the “Desert Polynesia” cover for the 2002 PSPF Tribute Journal. Being a clever marketer – Jay meets Josh and asks, “why not release a print of your cover at the 2003 show, with part of the proceeds benefitting PSPF?” “Great idea,” answers Josh.
At the same time, Jay and his wife, MiShell, were looking for a side business to their real estate endeavors and thought of art. “Everyone loves art. It makes people happy,” says Jay. MiShell was cashiering at the 2003 Modernism show. No surprise – Shag’s “Desert Polynesia” print sold out! The light bulb went on in MiShell’s marketing mind! She asked Josh if he would show with them if they opened a gallery. Josh had declined such offers in the past – but not this time.
A Match Made in Palm Springs Heaven
“Our rapport was instant,” recalls Jay. “We loved Josh’s art and he loved our gallery space and promotional ideas.” Two months later, on May 9, 2003, Jay and MiShell opened the M Modern Gallery on North Palm Canyon Drive, with a month-long solo exhibition of Shag's rare prints and a new print release called "Palm Springs After Dark.” “People were sending in checks – and they hadn’t even seen the print yet!” Jay enthused. “People continued to come looking for Shag’s work, even after his show ended.”
Jay takes a business approach to their gallery. After all, he was born into business, working with his family’s company, Nailor Industries, which manufactures commercial HVAC equipment all over the world, before coming to the desert. They’d throw Shag Print Release parties about every two years – with free cocktails – and Shag in attendance. Shag’s popularity soared.
On May 8, 2010, Jay and MiShell opened The Shag Store in Palm Springs’s Uptown Design District on North Palm Canyon Drive, the first and only boutique and gallery dedicated solely to Josh Agle’s art, prints and merchandise. And the rest is history!
Designed just for Shag’s work – the large, airy, multi-room gallery features large expanses displaying dozens of his prints and paintings, counters and tables loaded with unique Shag merchandise, a step-down room with Shag-designed shirts and the Tiki Den, devoted to art featuring Shag’s original favorite subject – tiki. It’s also perfect for the Martini Kings retro-cool band live entertainment, and a bar area, where complimentary drinks add to the fun of the numerous Shag Release Parties.
“We’re working on Shag as a brand; from the business-model approach,” explains Jay. Jay and MiShell come up with the marketing and merchandise ideas. Shag has the final say. Shag’s only criteria for merchandise is “it must have a function.” Hence the socks, martini glasses, women’s handbags, and even the cool new Shag-branded and designed record player – which sold out in a week!
Success hasn’t changed Josh, they say. “He’s always been a nice, quiet guy. He’s still excited that people like his work.” Even now that celebs such as Mark Parker, NIKE president, chairman and CEO, are collecting his work. “Seeing Josh become a house-hold name.” That’s our greatest satisfaction in working with Josh,” says MiShell. “Josh is always excited to meet people and they love his work. It’s great to see him take off….and know that we helped create the momentum.”
Jay and MiShell go out of their way to insure that all Shag merchandise is the best quality. For example, the Shag beach towel weighs four pounds – top quality clothe, comparable to that of fellow Palm Springs retail icon Trina Turk (whom they work with and adore).
A Talented Twosome
Like many Palm Springs entrepreneurs – Jay and MiShell are fun, smart and love mid-century modern. How did they meet? “I stalked her – and she signed a marriage certificate instead of a restraining order,” Jay laughs. Seriously, they met in Tempe, Arizona. MiShell was a model-turned Southwest Airlines gate agent. Jay, who is originally from Toronto, Canada, was traveling for his family’s business.
Why Palm Springs? “The perfect house brought us to Palm Springs,” says Jay. They bought Arthur Elrod’s original Movie Colony home in 1997 and moved in in 1998.
What’s next? “Publishing,” says Jay. “High end Shag coffee table books.”
And that cool “Desert Polynesia” print image from 2002? In 2005, Shag made a painting of it. Jay and MiShell bought and still have it – an original reminder of “the print that was the beginning of everything” for Josh, Jay and MiShell.