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Meet Chris Vargas of VADR Collaborative

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Vargas.

Chris, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I spent the early part of my career ( 1993-2003) in the record and nightlife business, straight out of high school and right into an internship at an independent record company. I tour managed here and abroad, developed retail programs, radio interviews for my artist roster and delivered records ( actual vinyl) to radio jocks for AirPlay. I was a kid living the dream. Developed an INDIE Only showcase for national and local acts and a series of clubs, poetry slams and DJ Tours. Once Napster and 9-11 changed the landscape of my business, the party was over. Here I was, a father to a 3-year old (My beautiful daughter Elleven) owner to a failed business venture and in dire need of an avenue, the opportunity to relocate to the SF Bay Area presented itself. I had nothing anchoring me to L.A., so we made the move in late 2003. At the time, I was hoping to find work with label contacts in the city, or land a gig in branding and marketing.

Nothing seemed materialized for me in my desired line of work. So I turned to Luxury Retail. I never wanted to be on a sales floor, so I chose to work behind the scenes. Mailroom and Logistics seemed to be a low key enough option for me to survive and provide. I soon realized that I had a knack for customer service. This was a surprise for me as I’d always considered myself rather misanthropic and somewhat  of a curmudgeon. I suppose it was a certain standard that I held close to my heart. Pride in work and service. Eventually, I granted a position In sales and really enjoyed it.

Odd side note. I held an average of four weekly DJ residencies in San Francisco bars and lounges as well as DJ Gigs at retail events on my days off. Music had always been such a driving force in my life that it was a challenge to detach from. I tapered off as the decade came to a close.

My time at luxury apparel- retail granted me an opportunity with The Jonathan Adler Southern California showrooms. I always had a curiosity about Interiors so it felt like a good fit. This was during the time Fashion Police’s set design was all JA product placement realness. It was rather short-lived but prepared me for the next opportunity that landed at my door. A stone and tile showroom in West Hollywood was in search of an outside A&D sales rep. I had no experience with architectural finishes, nor believe I even applied for the position. I was called out of the blue and one week later, I was given a Prius a boatload of stone samples and a Thomas Guide (waze has yet to be a thing) and was told to intrude on unsuspecting construction sites to push my product! I was hooked. Oh, the things I heard and learned on this job. I soon began calling on big box home improvement centers, independent dealers and my favorite, the Southern California Architectural & Design community.

A few years after the company that had helped usher me into the trade to become the person you see before you, and learning what not to do in this business, I realized I had something to still offer. A better way to connect the A&D Trade to some of the best manufacturers in the world, directly. I was to launch my own company, yet again. The Vargas A&D Resource Collaborative. The way I see it, there’s no need to take advantage of designers and end users with large margins and misinformation. My partners on this (the manufacturers/suppliers) have been supportive and continue to provide these visionaries I visit all day, every week with comprehensive information and high-quality materials, minus the high premiums that showrooms and distributors add to decorative finishes.

This is the game I’m in now, and my professional journey. A kid from LA’s south side neighborhoods to a proud NELA resident and business owner. I’m very thankful!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I would imagine that no one has a smooth ride in today’s professional arena. I would also wager that a high school dropout with a similar circumstance as mine would have some of the same challenges I’ve encountered. Passion is the driving force.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the VADR Collaborative story. Tell us more about the business.
That long-winded bio I just freestyled would explain this in detail. I will state, however, that this sort of growth and potential is only accomplished by remembering that people are the driving force. Not numbers. The design community that calls on me and trusts me with their vision is what keeps VADR going and growing. I’m nowhere without them and my family.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Absolutely!

My partners on this journey; Arto Brick, Judson Studios, Roman Marble, Mafi and the rest.

My trade support system, which keeps me inspired and quite busy; MJS Design, Kari Whitman, Studio MLA, Christine London, Questar Builders, Rodrigo Vargas Design, AFD, Bone Collective, ANX, Studio 111, Joan Behnke and the list goes on..

Finally my partner in life and on this venture, Taleen.

All have contributed to the growth and development of this enterprise. Thank you!

There’s so much more to come.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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