Since he puts the DK in DK Zoom, it seemed appropriate we interview Danny Kass right about now. But let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. After two weeks of phone calls, ichats, emails and @ replies, I finally tracked down Danny in Orlando, FL. Even then he didn’t want to sit down for an interview. Instead, he turned the tables interviewed me about such hot button topics as YoBeat and taking dude’s virginity. Eventually we got some dirt on him, and some solid life advice from an old dude that worked at the trade show. Don’t worry, if you don’t care what I or Danny have to say, there were plenty of blonds hanging out in the Grenade booth so you can just check them out in the background.
Video by Patrick Wieland
Guess what! It’s the Holidays, or as more commonly known around these parts: The time of year you can just recap and not come up with anything new year end review time! And what better way to look back in this new media age than to take advantage of Google Analytics and data pull some keywords to remind us what went down (that way we don’t even have to think that hard.) Some of our most frequent search terms were newsworthy events we remember, and some, well, some were just the ridiculous result of Google predicting what people were searching for. Here is some of the stuff people came to YoBeat looking for in 2009.
Our interpreation of this, one of our most popular search terms, is that rather than just realizing Bozwreck may or may not ever really do anything productive, is to google it for answers. Luckily, on YoBeat it brings people to the skeleton crew Hump Day where aspiring dirt bags can learn all about how some other people are doing exactly what they want with snowboarding.
This could go a few ways, but let’s hope it was aspiring interns trying to find out if opened-toed shoes are acceptable attire for their internship. And on YoBeat, they learned thanks to the economic slump we experienced this year, all about how they will save the snowboard industry.
also searched: danny kass news
It’s funny that so many people searched this and found YoBeat. Danny did have a great time in New Zealand driving his van up the mountain, etc, but as far as that other speculatatory situation went, we never really did find out exactly who it was. And in our post, you’ll see, the names we not released, so we didn’t not technically post them.
also searched: lucas magoon head injury, lucas magoon injury
In fall 2009, Lucas Magoon was in a skateboarding accident we followed closely, resulting in a serious head injury which may or may not have put Lucas in a coma. The outcry of concern was great to see, but the better news is Lucas is doing well and even snowboarding again.
When I saw this keyword, I got all excited that people were googling to find spots in Quebec, and finding a certain story about certain riders being primadonnas in Quebec. But as it turns out, it’s just the tag for one of our Firing Squad battles featuring a shot by Alex Paradis. Oh well.
photo: Paul Miller
2009 was definitely the year of Jed Anderson and what the people really want to know is why does he wear a helmet? We’ll go out on a limb and say “to keep his head in tact” but you can read his Hump Day interview for more. P.S. Some helmet company might want to look into picking this kid up, if they haven’t already.
You know who did nothing notable in 2009? Jason Borgstede. It’s been so long since he was relevant that most of you probably don’t even know who he is. Well, he was a big air jock who had questionable style and a ton of tricks. Why anyone is googling “Jason Borgstede Alcohol” is beyond me, but at least we reposted old X Games coverage for them to find when they did.
Apparently, we knew Ashbury was going to be a relevant brand before 2009, because the Hump Day this search term brings people to is from October 2008. But that’s the magic of the internet, stuff lives longer than a few days thanks to google and people were able to find out that yes, Lance indeed owns Ashbury, despite their poor grammar.
also searched: louie vito, is louie vito a midget, louie vito dancing with the stars
If Louie wasn’t getting paid serious loot to be on Dancing with the Stars, we might feel bad for giggling every time this search term popped up. But to answer your question search people, almost all good snowboarders are midgets, hence it was Todd who called it out in the Sherman v Vito Fight club. Deal with it.
It’s easy to make fun of Grenade. Between Danny Kass’s antics, and the company’s complete makeover, one has to wonder what exactly is going on over there? Then, when you add in the fact that almost everyone in snowboarding has worked for, hung out at, or done business with Grenade, yet only a few people know what’s really happening, it gets even easier. In fact, I heard last week, CEO Joseph Condorelli bit the head off a live bat. True story.
You believed me for a minute didn’t you? After all, Joseph is an outsider. A loud-mouthed New Yorker who came from a business background, having never set foot on a snowboard, to run a snowboard company that at the time, was on the brink of disaster. And even though he supposedly didn’t know what a “beanie” was, he’s worked day and night for two solid years to keep the company afloat and thriving. Yeah, it’s not the same Grenade we all hung out at, now it’s a growing company that might actually be around for years to come. Love him or hate him, this is Joseph’s side of the story.
How did you get involved with Grenade? Did Matt meet you at the bar or something?
I became involved with Grenade when I was a network consultant for a software company. One of my partners was working with the company to install the back end software. I met Matt and Danny as they were trying to ship their first season from the new warehouse—needless to say, we’ve met at a few bars since then.
What is your background?
My background is technology—I’ve spent most of my time consulting small to medium-sized businesses.
Had you ever been snowboarding before you became the CEO at Grenade?
No, I am a bit older and came from New York City. Snowboarding became widespread after I had already been a skier.
Can you snowboard now?
I can stay up and fool around but still have a hard time stopping—two knee surgeries deep, but I’m still interested. When we get some spare time I might go with Danny for a few weeks of R&R and learn from the best. That would give you something to blog about—true comedy. I’ll see if Rip Zinger is available to film it…
Is there any knowledge from another industry you’ve brought to Grenade that’s helped move things forward?
Danny has the passion and the creativity that drives the spirit of the company everyday. I bring all the knowledge and experience from every business that I’ve ever been a part of—that combination brought this company back to full strength.
This is where the magic happens.
What has been the biggest mistake made in Grenade’s existence?
I feel like that kind of question would lead to an overly simplistic, or fantastical, sound-bite answer. Every decade-old company has had its fair share of ups and downs. We are constantly assessing and evaluating all of our business and creative practices and adjusting them to become better at what we do. Perhaps at times we’ve complicated things that are simple, but from that we’ve learned and grown. We have a very strong brand trademark, and sometimes we haven’t leveraged that in the most efficient way, so right now we’re trying to focus the brand on being Grenade.
Do you think people in snowboarding are scared of you?
Often people are shocked by my transparency; I am blunt and can be explosive and aggressive —I admit that is where my personality fails. But I’ve worked to build real friends in this industry—I try to find the people that understand my style and have the patience to get to know me. There’s nothing to be afraid of when we’re building strong, honest partnerships.
Ever killed a man?
Ha! No. I am loud but not deadly. Actually, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat.
Have you ever made an employee cry?
My personality draws other strong personalities; if they have, I haven’t seen it.
How are these tough economic times treating Grenade?
Timing is on our side, actually. If the economy had been this bad two years ago we might not have made it. We have doubled our Spring/Summer apparel sales. We’re pretty stoked about our expanding footwear division and street line.
Obviously things could have been going better when you took over, how did you get the company back on track?
I actually did only one thing: I persevered when the going got rough. I worked later and longer. I pushed every person I could get my hands on—some burned out, unfortunately—but we didn’t have the luxury then for anyone that wasn’t committed to the survival of the company. We made it.
Still in business, and a full bar at the office. Not bad, I’d say.
Was the MMA industry receptive to the Grenade Products you’ve produced?
We tried one set of hoodies and tees, and yes they were, but ultimately it wasn’t a good fit for us. We’re still expanding and exploring other action sports—right now we’re developing some Motocross gear. Of course our largest expansion has been introducing our Spring/Summer apparel line, which is closely related to the skate scene. Danny’s always been a skater, so that was natural.
What is your response to people who’ve criticized Grenade for this expansion?
For the last 2 years I had a goal and a job to do, and I did it well. The company is open when it should have been closed. At the same time, I understand that some of our long-time fans have had trouble adjusting to our growth. Their concern speaks to their love of the brand, which is fantastic, but hopefully our most loyal fans will understand that we have to grow to survive. They can still get their Grenade gear at their local shop, but now they can also get some of it at the mall. It’s good business.
Why did you guys desert the 82nd street warehouse (complete with Dagger built Skate Park)?
I wouldn’t call it desertion, we downsized. The overhead was too high. A lot of small businesses go under by virtue of not being objective. We’ve worked too hard to go under based on keeping our loved, but an unnecessarily large, warehouse. Also, we’re better at designing gear than packing boxes.
Is the skate park still in there?
No, it is not—we donated it to Epic Snow and Skate here in Portland. They just held an event to break in the “new” bowl. The park was too sweet to sell with the warehouse. There are pictures on our blog.
Boba Fett and some boxes greet visitors to the new Grenade office.
Where are you located now? Is Grenade still doing all its own shipping and warehousing?
We relocated to the waterfront off of Macadam Ave, still in Portland. We’ve set up shop in a 100 year-old office building; professionals and doctors surround us. It’s hilarious, especially in the elevator. Where most offices have waiting rooms, we have a cardboard cut-out of Boba Fett wearing Grenade gear and a fully-operational sticker manufacturing station. Last week Danny was in town and parked the RV across ten spots in the parking lot. We bring a lot to the neighborhood. For shipping, we’ve partnered with a logistics handling company.
What’s it like being in a board meeting with Danny Kass? Does the Dingo get to hang out too?
Actually Danny, Dingo, and myself have some of the greatest meetings of all time. They have a unique combination of ideas and passion that you don’t always see in a professional setting. People should know how heavily invested they are in the company. We make things that they wear and they rep. Working with them has been a great reward and an experience that I would have never had in other businesses I’ve worked with.
Worst part about working with snowboarders?
I have had the privilege of working with some of the finest men I have met in along time—there’s not really a downside. The snowboarders that I work with are fun, energetic, creative and engaged.
All business, all the time.
Be honest. Do you really think Danny will make the Olympic team again? I mean, Danny is amazing, but have you seen the crap these kids are doing now?
I would be surprised if he doesn’t. I think Danny is at the most stress free point in his life—and if I’ve learned anything over the last 3 years, snowboarding is all about freedom. My man Danny is free at last. He’s training now.
Have you considered getting a Grenade tattoo?
No, but maybe some jewelery. Can’t you see me flashing some logo bling?
If you could give the snowboard industry as a whole one piece of advice, what would it be?
Have fun. Shred as long as you can and try to find a place to place that passion when you’re not on the mountain. Everyone’s got to hustle, but if you’re doing what you love and working harder than the next guy, you’ll find success.
Not so long ago, I worked at Grenade. My career started when Matt Kass decided to open a third Grenade retail store in the Portland area, this one adjacent to Windell’s Snowboard Camp. Given my stellar background in retail (I wasn’t exactly fired, but didn’t exactly quit my jobs at Zumiez and US Outdoor Store,) I was an obvious choice to help run this store. That summer Joe Carter and I ate Windell’s food, and hawked stickers and leftover gear to Windell’s campers. There were ups and downs, but overall it was a fun summer.
The only real issue with working at the store was that hour commute, so I was excited when Matt started having me do other things, such as drive him around town. This was right after Grenade (meaning Matt) had moved from Mammoth to Portland, so there was a lot to do. A warehouse had been purchased, but leased out while in escrow, so Grenade was pretty much operating out of Matt’s house and a storage unit. I helped him line up temporary warehouse space (that would be 122nd) and a design office, which is still what I am most proud of in my Grenade career.
As shipping season began, Dave and I pretty much took care of everything on the business end of things. Bayne handled inside sales, and Jesse was in charge of getting all the boxes packed. We tried really hard, so if your order was screwed up, I’m sorry. This was probably the best time I had at Grenade. We were making it happen, and it felt great. Once all the orders had shipped, and the other company’s lease ran out on our official warehouse (82nd) it was time to move.
My job had now become payroll, collections, human resources and self appointed public relations. One of my first initiatives in the new space was to get Shane Flood’s mini ramp moved into the warehouse. Things were looking up, despite the pile of shit in the middle of the new warehouse.
The crew at 82nd was a funny one. Towards the end of my career, I started writing a blog about it. I did an awesome run down, which I think should finally see the light of day. So here goes:
There is AJ. He is “customer service” I think. I’m not really sure what he actually does, but when it involves professional snowboarders, he makes sure to think out loud. “Scotty Arnold says he wears Bob Gnarly’s, but I am not sending him gloves no one will publish.” He definitely has Grenade tattoos. If you sit anywhere near him, you know all about his two trucks, and his awesome hangovers. Oh and his dog Pandora is pretty cool.
Bayne hasn’t come around much lately. Bayne is from my hometown. He was really good at skateboarding. Now he runs the shop downtown. It’s some sort of outlet that sells long boards and spray paint. People steal stuff all the time. Theoretically, he handles inside sales. Occasionally he is on the phone shmoozing people to buy SP bindings, which we licensed, but didn’t bother to market. He is also in charge of RAs (that’s return authorization). Though he keeps a record of it, no one really ever knows what’s going on. He has a shoe with a bamboo plant on his desk.
Downstairs Jesse is the king. Well, actually Matt is king of everything, but if Matt isn’t paying attention, Jesse is in charge. Jesse, or House, as he’s also called, has a stripper girlfriend who keeps him out until 5 am. He acts tough, and doesn’t change his clothes very often, but deep down he is nice. I think he might also be a pro snowboarder, or former pro snowboarder. He hates packing boxes and always talks about how much more he got paid at Betty Rides. He used to have a den downstairs where they kept snakes and dogs and smoked weed, but Matt made him clean it out. Now there are just a few shirts hanging from the ceiling.
Then there are the grunts. The grunts are amazing, because none of them have any idea what they are doing. It will take them a week to paint one wall. Putting a sticker on the door is a two-man job. They spend most of their time a Rosco’s, the bar across the street. A few of them have been temporarily banned from the establishment. A quick breakdown of the grunts:
Cole– Spends most of his time air drumming. Often comes upstairs to announce his latest great idea. “Balloons made out of bubble gum” being my favorite.
Jamie– The smartest of the grunts. I think he may actually be going to school and trying to better himself.
Curtis– A total rocker. Long hair, tight jeans. Funny dude, not much of a worker, the secretary definitely has a crush on him.
Oh yeah, then there is Forest. Dark Forest to be exact. At one point we had three Forest’s. This one is the most amazing though. He’s maintenance supervisor I guess. He is allowed to have assistants. He worked for months without getting paid because he was on workman’s comp. He built the entire skatepark and probably some other stuff to. Then, when he was no longer getting workman’s comp, he asked if he could get paid for all those hours. Apparently he had gotten more product than he needed and the guys at the shop were over it. Now he gets paid, is a staple at Rosco’s and is always good for entertainment. Oh yeah, and he has an awesome mustache.
Back upstairs there are a few more people. Kelly was hired to be the morning receptionist, but since she is not retarded, quickly fell into the role of Matt’s personal assistant. She doesn’t skate and she’s not a dirtbag. But she manages to put up with everything anyway. There is the other Matt. I call him the blind guy cause he carries a blind guy cane. I think he was hired to fold goggle boxes but now he is a receptionist. He mostly sits and stares at the phones, willing them to ring. When they do he answers, “Grenade, how can I help you?” Jen used to work here. She did credits and general office work. But she’s knocked up, and her existing child is now on summer vacation, so she won’t be coming around for awhile.
There is also a shop at 82nd. It is run by Tom. Tom is always positive, always stoked. I think he was hired to help run the company, but ended up just running a shop. He is always trying to make shit happen for people. He loves his employees.
His employees are:
Kailey–She may also be his personal assistant. She’s afraid of Jesse and lives at Tom’s house.
Willis– Amazing at skateboarding, not so good at life. When all the Grenerds got charged for damaging a hotel in Seattle, he got charged the most.
Forest–Forest is nice. He lives in Gresham.
Traci– Traci used to work upstairs. She got cut off cause all she did is play on Myspace. Now she sets up skateboards.
There are always others coming and going. I think Matt hired the bartender from Rosco’s to walk his dog. Shane Flood comes by the fix bikes. There are always old trucks in the parking lot. Oh yeah, and there is a garden on the roof. And no, they are not growing weed.
We chugged along at 82nd. Painting, organizing, moving boats back and forth on the warehouse floor. But any reasonable person could see this wouldn’t last, or work, forever. I don’t really want to get into the drama that ensued, so let’s just say, depending on the day, Matt could be your best friend or your worst enemy. When he decided payroll needed to be revamped, but didn’t decide how we would do that, it marked the end of my career. It seemed to me not paying people could probably get you into trouble, so I continued to run payroll every other Friday. The second Friday, he fired me for it. Such is life.
After I left, things seemed to go downhill. It’s not my place to explain everything that happened, since I was no longer there. Let’s just say there was a bit of a regime change. I heard rumors of cops being called, and everyone getting fired. It sounded like a mess and I was glad to have gotten out when I did.
Last week though, I went back for the first time since the broken clock outside had been turned into a giant Grenade. Instead of broken trucks, the parking lot was filled with a lot of really nice cars, and the exterior paint job looks a whole lot better. Yep, Grenade is like a real company now. It’s certainly not the 82nd I remember. But I’ll let Kevin give you the tour (and only interject a few of my thoughts.)