Nickel City Gritty: Mickey Thoren Harmon
I've been working on my Nickel City Gritty series now since December 2016, and while I've always had a list of people in my mind to interview, I'm always open and willing to hear suggestions.
I was talking with my friend Pat one day to try to brainstorm up some new people to interview, and he suggested Mickey. I've known Mickey just by his internet persona, Grovey Cleves, but had never met him in real life. I was immediately intrigued and had to learn as much about him as I could in hopes that he would say yes to this crazy interview.
Mickey, along with five other artists, opened up the Pine Apple Company in Allentown. Pine Apple Company is a collaborative shop that also acts as an art gallery and an event space. If you are an art lover and you haven't been in there yet, you better make it your next stop. This past year Mickey took on a huge project during Pride, and put on the Exist event, which brought a thousand people to the Allentown neighborhood surrounding their shop to celebrate life and love and community.
Lucky for me, Mickey agreed to be my latest Nickel City Gritty interview, and I know that you'll find him just as charming as I do. Listen to his playlist while you read all about his personal style, life with his husband, and love of singing Mississippi Queen.
This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Mickey Thoren Harmon of Pine Apple Company.
Tell me about how Pine Apple Co. got started.
Pine Apple got started when I was just out of college, I had met Tom Holt, and he is a local artist and curator for the Burchfield Penney. We got to talking and he invited me over to his house out in Five Points, pre-resurgence, and then I met this amazing group of artists, the six artists including myself who are here, and we would just get together during the winter like on a random Tuesday night and just draw and not draw and talk and finally though the grapevine, I was curating art for the LGBTQ community down the street at Prism, and Prism was owned by Mikey Rizzo who owned Loop magazine. He said, "Hey, I have this whole other space I'm not using, would you find LGBTQ artists?" So I did about nine shows there. Then Marcus Wise of Glow Gallery and 464 fame had moved, and he left so there was this perfect opportunity to have a space for sketch night, and then sketch night evolved into the Pine Apple Company, and then just this year we moved over here!
That's such a great organic story!
I know, that's literally how it all came to be! Over the months and times of doing these shows, and having weird events, a lot of people felt comfortable approaching us to do shows and stuff, and I feel like everyone says Buffalo is a very easy town to get exposure in, but like finding the avenues and the wall space for that, I think turns into the challenge. We wanted to have a space that didn't do that, you know?
"The tighter the pants, the better."
-Mickey Thoren Harmon
Describe your personal style.
I'd say my personal style is conservative ch....no that's not right. My personal style is ripping open the corner of the envelope, but...so like I kind of have this double life, right? I have this idiot Instagram presence where I'll go to a gay rave in Pittsburgh and run around in a jock strap, but then I work for a conservative real estate company. So, it's kind of like, I guess, proud would be the term. I like to dress how I want to be represented and the tighter the pants, the better.
What is the best compliment you've ever received?
Ummm...the best compliment I've ever received would be that I tirelessly create a space for people. I think people would say to me, "I saw you out at four AM on Instagram, and then you're Instagramming at brunch, how do you have the energy?" And I was like, "You can rest when you're dead, sweetie!" *laughs* But you can ask my husband, that's a different story when I wake up! So I'd say, yes, I guess my energy is something that people seem to gravitate towards. It's like, let's just do this and get it done. Produce, produce, produce.
What is the first thing that you bought with your own money?
A Super Nintendo with the winnings me and my brother won at a bumper bowling league when we won first place.
Nice! What was the game?
I think it was just the game that it came with, but I'm a Legend of Zelda man myself.
Are you still a game guy?
Yes, and actually because I am so busy, I've relinquished my XBox to the break room, so now we have Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Tekken all ready to play on rainy days and when the winter comes.
At what age do you think you became an adult?
I think marrying my husband...we got married in November, a week after Trump got elected in front of City Hall. We waited on our reception until a year ago this August. But I think honestly, I became an adult the moment I flew to Spain with rings in my pocket that Issa Mars made, I commissioned her to make these two rings out of silver and the second I touched on the ground in Spain I saw this full beard, I hadn't seen him in three months, and I was like, "Oh my god, I'm an adult now, I'm going to ask this person to spend the rest of their life with me." So yeah, I think that when I got engaged to my husband.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Mississippi Queen by Mountain. I was raised on Southern rock and, that's funny you would ask that because my friends are always like, "Let me guess, Mississippi Queen?" But I'll sing anything Southern rock because I have a very low "Cheektowaga mom" voice. *laughs* So I can NOT hit the high notes whatsoever.
What is your spirit animal?
Well, this might relate to the question before. So, when Squeaky Wheel had Prom of the Dead, they asked me and Vidalia May if we would be an active part of their "Scary-okie" It was Halloween karaoke party. So him with his skillset of being Buffalo's most prolific drag queen, he painted me as Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones and then I sang Mississippi Queen on stage right before I announced who won the costume contest, and Brandon and Patrick from Block Club actually won, and they were the ghost twins from The Shining. It was amazing. But I'd say that strong females that are painted evil would be my spirit animal.
What accomplishment are you the most proud of?
I'd have to say this past year...I was elected to the Allentown Association Board of Directors and I'm the First Friday Chair. I was nominated by Seth Ammen and a few others. The woman who was running First Fridays no longer wanted to continue doing it, so they nominated me and I started in February I did like a "For the Love of Allentown" and it was just kind of...winter gallery walks were kind of hard, but my real sights were set on Pride. The first weekend of June, traditionally, and it's the first time everyone kind of shakes the dust off and they're out and about and I really wanted to take the opportunity make the art in Allentown relevant and current, and also represent a side of the LGBTQ community that doesn't necessarily get the platforms that they deserve. So working with Nick, Vidalia, we found eight acts that we had seen throughout the years, and we put on a show, over a thousand people I think came to the block outside of the gallery. We had live mural painting, I had to get city permits, I had to close down the block, I had to get CBW vend beer, and then I reached out a gay-owned florist, and he made flower crowns to sell, and then I had Grindhaus and Melting Point come in, and then we built a stage from a donated platform, and then Nick sewed 36 yards of black waterproof fabric, and then we sat and put flowers in the shape of "Exist" on it. We did all of this in three months, and when it was said and done and the stage got pushed over and torn to pieces, I was like, "Okay, now what?" I think that it's reflective of the energy here, it's reflective of what's possible here. I think that's my most proudest accomplishment. So next year I'm gonna have to go even bigger.
What was the last thing that you googled?
Oh god, ummmm, last thing I googled was, I don't even know, what did I google? Duvet covers? Duvet covers. I was sick of the one we have, and last night I handed Robert something to drink, and he was reading some article on his phone and we had a fumble and the whole thing spilled, it was lemonade. I was like, "I'm not sleeping in lemonade and I'm not going to the laundromat either!!" So I was on Amazon and just decided to buy a whole new one.
What job would you be terrible at?
Uh god, I would be terrible as a sales person, collections. I tried collections when I was in college and I was there for about three weeks and I think I brought in like a hundred dollars, and there was this woman with fake nails and a big crunchy updo and drove a whatever SUV and she was like, "You can make a lot of money doing this." And I said, "You know, I'm just gonna have to resign." I can't listen to people tell me that they have cancer and they can't pay their bills. So I think anything that doesn't have a lot of heart. Like I had to sell a lot of people on that event, but it was for the community. So yeah, I think anything that would be a sales person I would be horrible. But people tell me I'm charming all the time and say I should get my real estate license. Listen, I haven't had a car in ten years, I'm not jumping on that train.
When people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?
Ummmm...art. They usually want advice on social media, how to get more exposure for their art, or they want a commission. I have a soft spot for musicians cause they never have a budget, so I've done quite a few album covers and posters for shows, and I think me lending my illustrative skills towards that has given me a reputation. Now everybody and anybody asks me, but the right project I will take on.
What are some of your favorite bars or restaurants in Buffalo?
I live at Cafe 59, it's right here and they serve all three meals. They always have great service and they're always really friendly. Also, Remedy House, I just had the best breakfast sandwich. We actually, for a fundraiser for Exist, had a drag show wine tasting called "Rose For Pay." And we sold thirty tickets in two weeks so we raised quite a bit of money. I've known the boys who own that for years. So, they have a buttermilk biscuit with maple butter, a fried egg and then some kind of delicious cheese...I had to go get a second one and split it with Robert, that's how good it was. You know, I always like to try new, youthful businesses. And I'll eat anything, so...
What topic could you spend hours talking about?
The tv show Lost. Or I could talk about art in Buffalo and what direction we're headed and the representation of what matters. You know, a lot of people claim renaissance, claim renaissance, and claim this, and you know there are a lot of forgotten people in Buffalo. Any time someone's being classist...I saw someone post a photo of this massive pickup truck filled with scrap metal, and they were like, "This isn't safe!" and I was like, "Well, the economy's not safe." I always try to stay humble to the fact that, while it's great that we're getting downtown cocktail bars and reinvigorating neighborhoods, there's still a lot of people that need a lot of help.
What is on your playlist? What do you like to listen to?
So, living in our age, Spotify Discovery comes up and they always suggest bands, but as of right now I've been listening to a lot of Brazilian Girls. They sing in four different languages and they're absolutely ridiculous. I'd say that they are my favorite band. And they have a song that goes "Pussy pussy pussy marijuana..." And it's on this really sensual beat. It sounds crude, but it's great. So yes, the Brazilian Girls, they're solid.
What is something that you think everybody looks stupid doing?
Wearing white framed sunglasses.
That was very specific!
Bros...bros in flip flops....I don't want to say cargo shorts because everyone is going to say that. People look stupid....there's a tactful way to take a selfie. You know, when you have the gaggle of girls or boys or whatever, and I will walk right up and be like, "Honey, don't use your reverse camera, give me your phone." I'm a proclaimed selfie queen. Always get someone else to do it, and you can bat your eyelashes at someone cute! We're in a new age, taking selfies needs to elevate.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
The closest thing I wanna be when I grow up is exactly what I am right now. I want to have a loving husband, thriving art career, a business and I want to be a homeowner. But the student loans and things come first, so slowly but surely wins the race. I think I'm the most ideal version right now of what I want to be when I grow up.
You can visit the Pine Apple Company at 65 Allen Street in Buffalo!