TWMX All Access: DVS

Skate shoes and MX riding have always seemed to go together pretty well, with the participant crossover between the sports, and for the end of the day, when the majority of us slide out of our boots and into a pair of skate shoes. DVS is one of the companies that has been skate-oriented, but has always had a pretty good crew of MX riders, with guys like Tyler Evans and Kevin Windham on the race side; and Carey Hart, Mike Metzger, Drake McElroy, Doug Parsons and Ronnie Faisst on the freestyle roster. In recent months it seems they’ve been a lot more visible, and part of that added visibility comes from Dano Legere, who joined up with DVS several months ago as the Moto Team Manager (and is quite the spark plug in his own right). An additional portion comes in the form of new recruits, Ivan Tedesco and Andrew Short, who have been doing their part in garnering plenty of coverage.

We stopped by DVS earlier this week to find out more about the company, and sat down with Dano and the Vice President of Podium Distribution (though he’s as likely to tell you that he’s the guy who stocks toilet paper), Brian Dunlap.

What’s Podium Distributing, and where does it fit into the mix with DVS?

Brian: We started DVS in 1995, and then in 1998 we launched Matix, and then Lakai in 2000. Lakai is like DVS, except it’s a lot more core skate. DVS covers a wider audience. Podium is an overall roof name to house all the brands. So Podium is the distribution name that takes care of those brands. You can’t pick up the phone and say, “Thanks for calling DVS,” if you’re calling for Matix, or vice-versa for Lakai. So it’s basically just our distribution name to house all the brands.

So what’s the story behind DVS? How did you get started?

We all grew up in the Valley, and all of us grew up skating and surfing. snowboarding…just everything. We also grew up racing BMX. That was what we all did early on. I started when I was five, and stopped when I was 11. I never played baseball or anything, because that’s all we did. We owned a track, and all three of us raced competitively for six years. My dad and another friend of ours stepped in to keep it open back in the day. They never made any money on it, but they wanted to keep the local track alive. We did that for a while and were really into that. I think from there, I really got into skating, and Kevin was really into surfing, and each one of us was into the sports throughout the years. Now we’re heavily addicted to moto.

We started in retail first, in the early ’90s. We had two skate/surf/snow stores in the San Fernando Valley. We had one, it was the smaller store, and the store that’s still around and more well-known is 118 board shop.

In the mid-90s there was a huge void in the skate shoe market, and at the time we were selling shoes in our store. DC had just gotten started, and there was a little bit of Etnies and Airwalk, and that was pretty much it. It really started by being in retail and knowing that there was a void here, and we wanted to get into the manufacturing side of things.

Knowing the background of the retail thing, and knowing what we needed to do on that side was easy. Then most of the time was spent on actually trying to figure out how to actually manufacture product.

At that time, my brother Kevin kind of ran through all the steps to really figure out manufacturing. He started researching how to make shoes, where to make shoes, and started doing trips to Asia. We ran through a few factories, but we’ve been using one of the agents this whole time, but luckily we’ve been using some of the same kind of sourcing throughout ten years. But he was doing all the early footwork of trying to figure out how everything needed to get made, and what we were going to have to do to get started. That part of it was obviously the toughest for us because I think we knew what the retailers needed, and about delivery…when they eded it, and what it needed to be priced at. It was actually the manufacturing part that was the hardest because that wasn’t our background.

We had the retail stores until 2000. So it was like a ten year run. That was our real background in the industry.

Skate, surf and snow are usually the foundation of a company like yours; where’s the tie-in to moto?

We all, right around our late BMX days, we all had bikes. My dad never rode, but both my brothers had friends who’d take them out on desert trips. I had a bike, but I only rarely got to go, like when Pops would take me. Back then it was a short-lived thing. We kind of got into it, but never really got into it, you know? Then actually me and my brother Mike got back into it at the same time, in the late 90s. Then just a couple years ago, my brother Kevin got a bike as well. Now we’re definitely addicted again, more than anything now. I’ve been heavily into snowboarding for a long time, and in the last two years, I’ve definitely set the snowboards aside to ride, and to do something different.

I’ve been really into snowboarding for a long time, and all my snowboard buddies give me crap now for riding dirt bikes so much. Ricky’s our snowboard team manager, and last year I snowboarded probably less than 10 days, which is the least I’d snowboarded since we started. He gave me crap all last year. Probably around September, he ended up buying one of my brother’s old bikes, and now he’s probably riding at least twice a week. It’s funny, because last year he was one of the guys giving me so much crap for not snowboarding.

It’s cool because now there’s so much crossover, and it’s how you progress. You get stagnant just doing one sport. With riding I have to be 100 percent focused. You can’t not think about riding. I think when I come back I’m so relieved, that I work my ass off.

Where does DVS fall into the skate shoe world?

If you look at it on a domestic basis, for the last couple years we’ve held the number one spot as best-selling shoe brand. On a more worldwide scale, DC and Etnies have larger distribution than we do. But they’ve been around longer, and that’s what it takes on the worldwide scale is time.

Number one domestically is not such a bad place to be.

No. But it puts the pressure on, because there’s only one way to go from there.

Now we know what we’ve done domestically, and we’re taking that throughout the world. We set up our own headquarters in France, and took over our own distribution in France, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. We did that in ’03. Then in the beginning of ’05, we took over the U.K., and set up an office there. Towards the end of ’05 we also set up an office in China. So we’ve been setting up other hubs outside of here. These other hubs are positioned to help get good worldwide distribution.

The thing with distributors, especially in our industry is that they grab onto multiple lines, and we see that the ones that do really well are the ones that just take care of our stuff. In those areas where we saw a lot of growth potential, if it’s our own product, we’re watching out for it. We’ve had huge growth in the countries where we’ve taken over. As far as worldwide, that’s our next step, and what we’ve been working on for the last two years.

So how did the company get its name?

It’s actually something that one of our partners, Tim Gavin came up with. It was an early stage of something that came from the word devious, but it was something that we never branded it with at all. People have asked throughout the years what it is, and we’ve always said that it is what it is. Everybody has their own, “It stands for this or that.”

Dano: I say it stands for Dano’s Very Special. (Laughs)

Brian: We didn’t really want to use that name, but like the way it worked. That’s kind of where it came from. It is what it is, and it worked, I guess. We’ve gotten this far. (Laughs)

Did you ever expect the company to get where it is today?

(Laughs) No. Not even close. Just to put it in perspective, our first kind of big jump was moving into this building, getting out of the Valley and moving down here (Torrance, CA). It was more just because we were trying to find the right employees and the right fit. Down here we’re in kind of a central hub. You can pull from Hollywood, from Orange County—Huntington and Long Beach, and pull from Santa Monica. We even still have people that commute from the Valley. That was one of the main reasons. I think we moved down here in 2000 and I think we had 42 people here. We were walking around the building and thinking, “Wow, this will take care of us for a long time.” Now we’re completely maxxed out inside here. We have 85 people in-house now, and it’s crazy to know that it’s grown that fast. It’s been pretty insane. This isn’t even the warehouse. This is design, accounting, sales and marketing. Down the way we have 150,000 square feet for warehousing, and a whole separate staff for that.

It’s been pretty insane, and to think back to the very beginning, the first office we had probably 2,000 square feet for offices and warehouse, and we were shipping our own stuff. It’s been quite a big change.

Contact:

www.dvsshoes.com
www.dvsmoto.com

tten this far. (Laughs)

Did you ever expect the company to get where it is today?

(Laughs) No. Not even close. Just to put it in perspective, our first kind of big jump was moving into this building, getting out of the Valley and moving down here (Torrance, CA). It was more just because we were trying to find the right employees and the right fit. Down here we’re in kind of a central hub. You can pull from Hollywood, from Orange County—Huntington and Long Beach, and pull from Santa Monica. We even still have people that commute from the Valley. That was one of the main reasons. I think we moved down here in 2000 and I think we had 42 people here. We were walking around the building and thinking, “Wow, this will take care of us for a long time.” Now we’re completely maxxed out inside here. We have 85 people in-house now, and it’s crazy to know that it’s grown that fast. It’s been pretty insane. This isn’t even the warehouse. This is design, accounting, sales and marketing. Down the way we have 150,000 square feet for warehousing, and a whole separate staff for that.

It’s been pretty insane, and to think back to the very beginning, the first office we had probably 2,000 square feet for offices and warehouse, and we were shipping our own stuff. It’s been quite a big change.

Contact:

www.dvsshoes.com
www.dvsmoto.com