I happened to run into Dom at Brooklyn Projects' apparel booth at Agenda while chatting it up with Robert Brink (Weekend Buzz). I introduced myself to Dom and we shook hands. I’d never met him before, but I’ve logged in a few hours at the store and on the ramp whenever I’ve visited Los Angeles. The interview was un-planned, and on the spot.
Dom had plenty to say and answered every question I asked. No topic was off limits or too personal as we discussed everything from industry issues, to his thoughts on upcoming brands, he even openly discussed losing his first store on Melrose. Even though his phone went off multiple times and quite a few people asked to speak with him, Dom never once took a call and continued with the interview.
There’s been plenty of heat over Brooklyn Projects and Dom on the internet, but I invite you to read the interview below and decide for yourself what’s true and what’s not.
Yep, that’s me. [brief introduction]
How long has the store been in business for?
Going on twelve years.
What inspired you to open a skate shop?
Brooklyn Projects came from Brooklyn House, which was my first skate shop. I opened Brooklyn House in Brooklyn, in 1991. I guess I was ahead of the curve, so to speak. After about ten years of having Brooklyn House - nine years, actually – I closed down Brooklyn. I had one location in Brooklyn and one in LA. Around 2000, I was over everything and went back into the music business. Around 2001, I wanted to do it again.
Melrose was the place to do it?
I’ve always been on Melrose – my first store (in California) was on Melrose, with Kareem Campbell in 1996. I opened in Brooklyn first, came out to Los Angeles, opened up with Kareem and I was going back and forth , back and forth and just became tired of it.
How many BP locations are there now?
I have multiple locations now – Los Angeles, Japan, two in Montreal, Canada and a third in Toronto, Canada opening in October. The Canada stores I own a part of in partnership with some friends.
Nike. You knew I had to ask.
[laughs].. Of course.
I think people are curious to know what the process of doing a collaboration with Nike is like. How long ago did you start working on the Walk of Fame colorway?
The idea came about around August of last year. I called one of my designers, Mandee Bence – she’s done most of my designs for Nike. She’s the one that I came up with the concept with and she helps me come up with ideas. I then give it to Shawn over at Nike – he’s the homie – I love Shawn, that’s my boy forever. We brought a bunch of different stories and colorways and eventually Nike picks the ones they want to do. A couple of them were shelved – because after the Black and Tans came out and created that whole legal backlash, Nike legal won’t release any shoes with a negative or controversial connotation. So we had a bunch of stuff that was supposed to come out, and it was put on ice for now. We have three more collabs coming out over the next year and a half.
So tell me a little more about the shop. There’s always someone saying something, good or bad, about Brooklyn Projects.
My shop is really unique in that it’s almost a double edged sword being located where I am. Every brand that is on Fairfax, started in my store. The “mall” that is called Fairfax and it is a mall now, every brand started in my store with the exception of Supreme and newer brands like Pink Dolphin. Every brand started in my store, The Hundreds started in my store, Crooks started in my store, Diamond was in my store. They all used my store as a launch pad to start their brand.
Then Supreme opened up, and then it was like deadliest catch you know? You go where the big, popular fishing boat is that all the fish go to, and everybody goes and waits for the extras that don’t get caught by the big boat – that was the whole mentality. Before Supreme opened up, no one would even think about opening on Fairfax. They would have told you that you were crazy.
Having been in LA, with my shops for about 17 years my shop is a constant re-thinking of my business. Eventually, I don’t want to carry the brands that have flagship stores six blocks away from me. I do carry The Hundreds and HUF, but they work with me. Other brands don’t show the love back after all the years of showing them love.
A good example is Diamond. When Diamond was getting sued by Iron Maiden and Nick Diamond goes on Crailtap and says that if it wasn’t for me, Diamond would be out of business. If someone saved my company, I would do whatever the fuck it takes – whatever they needed, I’d do to help whoever helped me out. But he’s Nicky Diamonds now, he’s not Nick Tershay anymore and he doesn’t really give a fuck – but that’s what I have to deal with on the daily.
The deal with Brooklyn Projects is that we are a skateshop – we’ve always been a skateshop. We’ve always dealt with brands that were not originally labeled as streetwear, but then were labeled streetwear eventually. Diamond is a fucking hardware company – bolts and bearings. But now it’s a streetwear company. As much as they want to push it as a skateboard company – it’s a streetwear company that does skate.
It’s funny you should mention that, because I remember the only way to get Diamond gear was to have the homie hookup or know someone on the team. When I was in highschool, you couldn’t buy Diamond at Zumiez or PacSun.
Zumiez and PacSun have done a lot, opening new brands. The time for being cool is over – even Supreme sells their stuff online. I’ve been a fan of Supreme since the beginning.
James (Jebbia) is a genius.
James is a genius. You know, you make something, make it in a limited amount, make the hype, create the hype, and pay for the hype.
So unbeknownst to you, I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time at Brooklyn Projects over the last five or six years. DJ (Chavez) has always been nice enough to let me use the ramp, drink the beer and has been very welcoming. He doesn’t personally know me, but we talk shop and maybe he sees that I know what’s up. More importantly, every time I’ve gone behind those doors that lead to the ramp – the gnarliest pro’s are hanging out in your backyard.
How is it that you know all of these pro’s and they back the shop?
When I came to LA in the 90’s, most of the pro’s will tell you I’m the one that started the whole migration to Hollywood. They all lived in the Valley, they all lived in South Bay, they all lived up North. I would give them a shop to hang out at, but the main thing is, I would take them to all these high-end Hollywood clubs. I was taking Koston out – Koston met his wife through me. I was also taking out Mike Caroll, Keenan Milton, my best friend – rest his soul – and Gino Ianucci. I was the one taking them out to all of the clubs and from there, I became friends with everybody. I never used any of them to pump my shop.
For the up and comer’s –I would support them too. My team is about 17 people deep. 17 am’s is a lot of riders for a shop. I give everyone a chance, I try to support everyone’s skating. It’s paid off – I took on Elijah Berle when he was 13. I nourished his skating career, and now he’s the big thing. Now it’s Pat Rumney, before him Lizard king and Braydon Szafranksi before him. All these people started with me when they were am’s and I helped them.
So you have love for skateboarding.
There’s love. Everybody knows when you come to my shop, it’s a family thing. If you’re cool – you can come hang out and meet everybody. It’s not an open public place – if you go behind those doors, it’s because we’re cool with you.
And I’m going to say this – not just because it’s N-SB – but a lot of people talk shit on the forums, I get it. Most of the people that talk shit are 15 or 16 year olds that sit in front of their computer and just go “Blah blah blah”, yet some of the kids that were saying the shoe is wack are the same kids that are calling and tweeting saying the shoe is dope. Everyone goes with the tide – I’m the number one hated store.
I think it’s safe to say Supreme is up there.
I think Supreme is up there, but they all dick ride Supreme. Per capita, we are the more hated. I don’t care, I think it’s funny. If kids really knew what was up when they ask…”Why do you charge over box price for shoes?”…If you own a shop in Hollywood, or any big city, you have to make that little extra. I have a policy for certain dunks and Quickstrikes – if you want the shit at box price, I’ve done it before – I write in big black marker on the box “Not for resale”. You can have it for box price if you are going to use them, wear them or skate them – I’ll sell them for $100. But if you’re going to take them and sell them……you know what, the people that bought my dunk on Ebay that paid $180 and are crying, are re-selling them and are making more money than me. They are selling them for $300 - $400 a pair. I sold the shoe for about $170. Our profit after shipping is about $70. These motherfucker’s are making $200 – I might as well take the shoes and open up an eBay store.
Then Nike would be after you.
So far you’ve told me all about the shoes, the creation process and why you don’t carry certain brands. What brands do you think are doing it right in the industry right now?
I think Girl is doing right, Baker and Deathwish are doing it right – there are a lot more brands that are doing it wrong. In the footwear game, HUF is doing it right.
There are a lot of footwear brands that are all about skateboarding, but yet, they are just cashing in on skateboarding. They have roots in skateboarding, but they’ve gone so mainstream, and now that mainstream has blown up and they can’t make any more money, they are going back to skateboarding. It’s not cool, but it’s business. I don’t think there are a lot of people doing it right. I see everybody getting into it, for the wrong reason - to make a quick dollar.
A brand that makes me scratch my head is Asphalt Yacht Club. It’s the guys that did Trukfit and Rocawear. If you look at the team, it could have been done right. It’s like they said..
- “Who has the number one selling shoe in skateboarding?” - Janoski
- “Who is number one in X- Games?” - Nyjah
- “Who has a great image?” - Stevie (Williams)
- “We need a hesher guy” - Figgy (Justin Figueroa)
- “We need a legacy guy” - Riley Hawk
So it’s a marketing plan – almost like the Backstreet Boys was a marketing plan, doesn’t matter who it is – but they had to be talented, let’s put some money behind it and blow it up. By no means am I comparing the pro’s to the Backstreet Boys – some of the pro’s are personal friends of mine. I’m happy that they’re on the team and happy they’re getting paid very well and taken care of.
The whole Diamond Life / Yacht life, how many kids are actually living like that? I think they want to live like that, but that’s just a fad, a phase. I think that in a couple of years, it’s not going to be about that lifestyle anymore, the industry is going to go back to its roots.
People are going to take this as me hating, listen, I’ve been in business for over 20 years – I am not hating. If anyone has a right to hate, it should be me, because of the injustice, the turn of events. People have used me – I’m not going to say names – but they’ve used me to help their career and they don’t show love back. Everybody that’s helped me before, whether in music, entertainment or skateboarding – I’ve always give back to them and have been willing to help if they wanted my help. That’s my thing.
You seem to be very passionate about the skate industry and skateboarding in general. Do you skate?
I BMX and skate. I get on the ramp every now and then and bust my ass. I care about skateboarding because I started off as a skateboarder and just happened to excel at BMX – much like BMXer’s who end up excelling at Moto-Cross. In my neighborhood, there were more kids BMXing.
I’m passionate because the one thing that people will not believe – but people who know me know this about me – is that I do it strictly for the love. I don’t do this to make money.
I do consulting work for several brands including Sol Republic and WeSC. I should have been out of this industry ten years ago. I’ve been doing it almost twenty years, and it’s been like a hobby for me. I do it to keep the sport alive, the industry alive and to keep the culture alive. I’m not making any money. When you take how much money I make at the store and you take away taxes, you pay your rent and what you pay your employees – there is nothing left.
Honest to God, I’ll put this out there –
on the books I make about as much as a cashier at McDonald’s would make a week and I deal with all of the shit. So it’s not like a get rich quick scheme, you know what I mean? I do it strictly for the love. When I lost my stores and I lost my lease in 2009 – again, I’ll put this out there – I lost my house, I lost my car, I lost my store, one after another. I lost my Pasadena store, which was there for that one kid that wanted to buy a deck or a hat – I made no money. Again, we did that store for the love. When I got my shit back together, I put all of my eggs in one basket and a lot of my friend’s brands said they would help me, but they also suggested I stick with marketing and not open up another shop. But I told them I wanted to do a store again because it’s my passion. A lot of people didn’t want to back me – some brands did and some brands didn’t. The ones that didn’t, they’re the ones that are knocking on my door to come in back to my shop and I’m like…I don’t need you, you didn’t believe in me, so peace out.
Now I’m at this location and I’m not going to lose my lease, I have a fifteen year lease so I’m going to be there forever. I have stores in Canada and I’m opening up in Brooklyn next year.
Considering how many collaborations you have done over the years, which has been your favorite so far?
Other than working on my (Brooklyn Projects apparel) line, I have a bike coming out with Diamondback – so that has been my favorite so far. And then the Nike Walk of Fame was fun, but it became a headache as other people got involved at Nike. Shawn over at Nike SB was part of it originally, and then he changed positions, but ultimately ended up being involved in the end. Shawn and I have a perfect synergy, we’re boys and it’s amazing. When I come up with an idea, I pass it to Mandee, she adds her two cents, we create it, we give to Shawn, he adds his two cents and it’s a classic.
I’m glad you brought up the shoe again – Where do you draw your inspiration from? You’ve worked in the music industry, you skate, you BMX – What’s going on in your head?
The Hollywood thing came from hanging out with my boy Josh Richmond – he’s like the king of Hollywood. One day we were just walking out of a club he just finished and we were looking at the stars and I thought it would be dope to do a Walk of Fame dunk. We started imagining all the things we could do- and that’s where the inspiration for that came from. I live in Hollywood, I have a store in Hollywood – so it all made sense. With the Slayer dunk, I work with them and they are one of my favorite bands, “Reign in Blood” was my favorite album of all time – rest in peace Jeff Hanneman. We tried to do a Metallica collab, but it’s too much of a headache because they’re a conglomerate, even though I talk to them and I’m friends with them.
I just look at something and think that it would be a cool dunk, or a come across a great concept – like right now we’re working with Anthrax and hope do something Nike related with them.
Any last words for the N-SB masses?
Thanks to all the kids on the forums for always talking about me, thanks to the owner of N-SB for going back and forth, trying to talk shit to me.
Continue the support of my shop, continue the support of my riders.
Continue the hate – I love it, I love the hate. It’s funny, these kids are on the forums – yet when one of my employees goes after them – you know if someone keeps coming at you and talking shit about you, eventually you’re going to tell them to go fuck their mother. It’s cool – I still appreciate all the love that my supporters do give me – I appreciate N-SB.org. N-SB and HighSnobiety are the only two blogs I have bookmarked.
Thanks for your time Dom, it’s been a pleasure.
Thank you. I appreciate it.