Imperial Action Sports, the surf, snow and adventure sports arm of Imperial, recently teamed up with Mike Vavak of Building the Revolution for a limited edition hat and series about local surf shops. To kick off the partnership, we caught up with Vavak about BTR’s origins and how his time in the industry has shaped his latest venture.

We’ve been following @building_the_revolution for a long time. Can you give us a little background on what led you to create it and your goals for BTR? 

Building The Revolution started as a ‘thank you’ to all of the surf shops who gave me a career. One of my first jobs in the surf industry was selling accessories for Ocean and Earth. This was back when Amazon was still known for books and only a handful of surf shops had online stores. Back then, you had to go to a surf shop to get your traction, leashes, board bags, etc.

Those years at Ocean and Earth taught me lessons that I still use today. More importantly, the friends I made at surf  shops across the country are still my friends today. These friends and lessons helped launch my career, which allows me to feed my family, put shelter over their heads and clothing on their backs.

The goal of BTR is to say thank you and remind people to support their local surf shop.

It seems like every year more and more “core” brands are being sold at big box stores. Do you see that changing? 

No, I don’t see this changing. At the end of the day, people start brands to make money. They will claim, “core” as long as they can.

From day one, I’ve known Building The Revolution will never be a big brand because I hold value in the words “Support Your Local Surf Shop.”  This means, no selling direct, no big box stores, no selling to shops that don’t sell surfboards.

This doesn’t mean I can’t be an in-demand brand. I focus on high quality, limited-edition products, that are only available at surf shops. This allows me to control my distribution and never have to close out products. It also means if you see someone wearing a Building The Revolution product, the sale supported a surf shop and in return supported surfing culture.

How do you think core retailers compete and grow in a marketplace that is increasingly going online with brands focusing on themselves rather than the retailer? 

There is a saying, “You can’t out Amazon, Amazon.” If you do what they do, you lose. The customer walked in your door because they wanted an experience and they wanted to be part of something. They want to be part of your tribe. Give them an experience that the online giants can’t give them. Make them part of your tribe and make your store part of the local community.

Plus, you need to invest in yourself. The number one product sold at a surf shop should always be the surf shop’s hats, T-Shirts and accessories. Those products are like badges of honor and your customers wear them with pride. Not to mention you can only get those products at your surf shop.

What has reception been like from retailers and brands? 

The reception from retailers around the globe has been overwhelmingly positive. We are all in this together and I appreciate the retailer’s support just as much as they appreciate mine. Brand support has been good, too. When you push a positive message, positivity comes back at you.

What’s next for @Building_the_Revolution?

Last year I started Board Shop Day (@boardshopday), which is on the third Saturday in May. This is a day to celebrate surf, skate, and snowboard shops around the globe. Not another holiday for discounting but a day to put the “special” back into specialty. The goal is to encourage brands and shops to offer limited edition products that are only available at board shops. The next Board Shop Day is May 16, 2020. Futures Fins, Ocean Earth and Ace Trucks are already confirmed to release limited edition products. Board Shops created this industry and Board Shops can change this industry. They deserve a day of recognition.