Mike Halls of Keen Dist gets the 10 Questions treatment from us
We asked Keen Dist supremo Mike Halls to take some time out from supplying us all with Polar, Welcome, Quasi, The National and Pizza among other things to answer ten questions and find out a bit more about KEEN and one of our favourite guys in the industry.
Hey Mike. You're a very busy man, so thanks for taking the time out to talk and answer a few questions. First off, how are you? And what fun does the KEEN HQ bring you today?
Good thanks! Ahh man, a real mix today. Emails, phone calls, counting stock in, building some more shelving, getting ready for xmas.... a busy one for sure! We have a crazy few weeks coming up here.
For anyone that doesn't know, what skate brands do Keen Distribute to all us lovely skateshops?
So we sell (and in no particular order) Pass Port, Polar, Welcome, Quasi, The National Skateboard Co, Habitat, Descent, Lovenskate, HOPPS, Wayward Wheels, RIPNDIP, Modus Bearings & Theories, as well as some accessories like Jessup, Picture Wheels and Sk8ology. We also distribute Free Skateboard Mag and North Skate Mag.
How old is Keen Dist and where does the name come from?
It's around 5 and a half years now, i'd just come back from New Zealand and it was a phrase we all used quite heavily, I thought it fit as a distribution name so ran with it!
Keen is quite a small crew. How many people work there, and what do they do?
Right now there's 6 of us. So Phil is the new sale guy, Joe sorts logistics - incoming stock and inventory handler. Goose rules the warehouse and deals with all the booking out, picking, packing etc and then Stef handles all the accounts, money chasing and book keeping bits. Callum is about to move on so we'll be replacing him shortly, whoever comes into his role has big boots to fill!
You've worked very closely with Pontus Alv of Polar Skate Co for a number of years now, so how did you first meet and what led to Keen becoming European distributor?
It came from meeting in Berlin back in 2012 I think. He'd reached out to a couple of the UK distro's but I was quite eager to get something going. He took a real chance with me having maybe 2/3 brands and barely any history. We started working together immediately and things started to really grow in the UK. During the next couple of years Polar was being warehoused 3rd party in Germany and moved through 2. Polar was still on the up here and me and Pontus started talking about bringing it all through the UK and servicing distributors through here. One thing lead to another and we actually moved the whole sales and logistics of Polar into the same building as Keen at the start of 2014. So the set up is we have Keen here doing what we do for multi brands distributing to retailers in the UK, then Polar international sales and warehousing coming out of the same building. It does get pretty full on at times but Pontus and myself work really well together, I think people would be surprised at the team involved. We have a great, tight knit crew in the Malmo office which handle all production and design, then a small workforce of us in the UK getting lost in boxes upon boxes each delivery haha - I love it though, I love Pontus's mindset and his passion for it, he works his arse off too - I couldn't ask for any more.
You're regularly visiting the States pretty regularly these days, can you tell us what you get up to over there?
Yeah usually two/three times a year, mostly for Agenda trade show but its more about hanging out with the guys we work with, usually going for a skate with them and going through what we can do together. Its amazing to see some of their operations and how they're growing. With each brand we work with we started together at a very small stage so I'm really stoked each time I go over and catch up with whats new their side.
If you weren't working in the skate industry, what do you think you'd be doing instead?
I've honestly no idea. I'm a bit of a stock/inventory geek so probably something to do with warehousing. Before Keen I was a assistant stock manager for Argos and then onto a Warehouse manager for a pretty big drink distribution in New Zealand.
Knowing you for almost 10 years now Mike, i've seen you put down some pretty rad stuff. So without bigging yourself up too much, what's the best thing you've done, or been most stoked on?
I don't know about that mate! I think when I was skating most in New Zealand and around that time, this was before Keen. When I got back Goose and I had a joint section in Reskue's video (see edit below), but since then skating got tough with work but I still try and get out as much as possible. Some weeks way more than others but it comes with the job I think, its probably not as glamorous as everyone thinks.
Apart from skateboarding and if you manage to get some down time, what do you like to do?
Not too much, mainly hang out with my girlfriend and our dog, thats a lot of time taken up there. I work long days in the week so try to just chill when I get home, weekends are a little different but again just hanging out, skate for a couple of hours and chill with the boys. The best thing is our crew here are all good friends, that can be a good and bad thing but its rad if we have a extra busy week and then we're still hanging out over the weekend together too.
Who's your favourite skater, and why?
Tough one and I couldn't nail it down. I'm going to go with top 5 in no particular order; Oski, Puig, Hjalte, Brophy & Goose.
And one last question. What's the obsession with Heineken, and what is Heinie Fridays? Is this why they call you Ken?
Haha its not really an obsession, its just my lager of choice. A friend came up with Heinekeen and we played with it for a while. Heine Fridays actually come few and far between but if we've had a busy week then we'll all have a beer on a Friday afternoon. I don't know how the nickname started, I think it might have been Goose, he tried to write out Keen I believe and just wrote KEN, I think thats how it came about. A pretty suspect store then returned a box made out to 'KEN DIST' and it grew from there. My little dog is my right hand man, Kenny....
Thanks again for taking the time for a chat, you're a champ. Big ups to Mike and all the crew at Keen Dist.
Photos: Jake Mein
Questions: Lloyd Davies