Here’s the article in its entirety. I have just one thing to say – this is the American Dream at its finest. You go with you grillz Mr. Warren. You Go. My favorite part is the “touch of class” quote. Priceless.
New York man brings urban edge to Florence
By Trevor Stokes
His business card may be a glossy postcard that advertises “FDA-approved” Hustla Grillz and Gold Grills (“over 5,000 styles available”).
His business sign may make the simple proclamation scrawled in black Magic Marker on white poster board: “King of Gold Teeth.”
But Donielle Warren’s modus operandi is to bring urban edge to Florence with the latest fashion labels LRG, Red Monkey and Coogi straight from New York City. And, oh yeah, grillz.
“It’s jewelry for your teeth,” said the entrepreneur who splits his time between Florence and Queens, N.Y. “Anything you can think of can be put on your teeth.”
The 29-year-old, raised in Hempstead, Long Island, had his first grill (“grillz” in singular form) as he entered his teen years in the early ’80s.
Grillz come in two types: dental and cosmetic. Dental grillz are molded for a person’s teeth and come with a lifetime warranty. Cosmetic versions clip on as a one size fits all. No matter the type, after fittings, Warren uses pliers to tighten up the grillz.
“The thing I like about it is you can take it out the next day and be president,” he said.
Push-on, pull-off grillz are the temporary tattoos of the urban dental trade. Like tattoos, some prefer permanence, but not Warren.
“I’m not trying to knock dentists, but I do not recommend getting permanent gold teeth,” he said.
Warren warned that food could get between the tooth and the gold plate and cause tooth rot.
“When you’re a 50- or 60- year old, you’re going to wonder why your breath is stinking,” he said, “I can do the permanent teeth, all it is is some glue, but I don’t want to do that.”
Ronald Ratliff, a University of North Alabama custodial supervisor who got a single gold tooth made from Warren, agreed. “America is so much about glamour, but it’s only temporary,” Ratliff said. “I wear mine when I go places just to get a little class.”
Grillz take three days. First, Warren makes dental impressions with cherry scented, dustless dental grade alginate gel.
The impressions are next sent to Queens-based jeweler Steve Afshin, who said the trend reached its height in New York about four years ago and that the latest bling is nameplates on a chain.
“Used to be good before; not that good now,” said Afshin, “Now, not that much.”
No matter. For Warren, grillz are here to stay.
“That’s what’s in right now, the gold teeth,” Warren said. “This is a thing that’s going to be around forever.”
Why here? First, Warren came to Alabama in 1996 to play football on a scholarship with Alabama State University in Montgomery. Second, his mother is from Tuscumbia. And lastly: “Why go up there and be in the rat race when I can be here and be my own race?”
Now, he makes grillz for any and all clients who pay up the bucks.
“I don’t discriminate, I sure don’t,” he said with a camera that flicked past pictures of multi-ethnic clients and their wares.
But it doesn’t stop at grillz. Warren’s future plans include getting an oven plus accessories ($3,500) so he can make gold rings and medallions; you name it.
For now, Warren focuses his attention on grillz.
Chris Swag, a 23-year-old music producer, was fitted Wednesday for his grill: four-toothed, white-and-yellow gold with diamond cross-hatching.
“They shine with the sun out,” smiled the former Chicago resident.
He chose his design, a new one in the catalog, because, “I like to get new things that nobody else got.”
“Pretty comfortable; just gotta get used to it,” he said. Was the $140 worth it? “Pretty much,” he said.
The most expensive set Warren has produced cost $2,200 for six teeth that were made of platinum.
But for the starter-set, basic grillz cost $35 a tooth: “Those are the ones you can eat with,” Warren said.
Warren doesn’t own a pair of grillz himself. Bad advertising? Nah. “My girlfriend flushed mine down the toilet,” he said, “because I was getting too much attention.”
Staff Writer Trevor Stokes can be reached at 740-5728 or email@example.com.
Copyright © 2007 TimesDaily