· By Toby Morrell
"Hard Rock to Hard Work" - An Interview with Centennial Trading Co.
If my memory serves me correctly, the year was 2003. We (Emery) had been living in Seattle for a couple years and had become big fans of the Tooth and Nail/Solid State rosters, in which Beloved was a part of. The Solid State Tour was coming through town and we decided to go check it out. I remember seeing you guys live for the first time and thinking, holy crap...this band is freakin good. I also remember meeting you guys and felt comfortable talking to you since you were from the south as well. It wasn’t common meeting other southerners in that genre of music at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long after that you guys decided to call it quits. It really seemed like you guys were gaining popularity and could have been the “next big thing” in that genre. Looking back on it, what are your thoughts on leaving the music industry, especially during that peak time in music?
Man I totally remember that! It was great meeting you guys and sharing our love for sweet tea and Cheerwine. Honestly, when we decided to end Beloved it seemed like the right thing to do. As we got a little bigger and more people started getting into the record we started making decisions based on what everyone else wanted. What the label wanted, what management wanted and we picked tours based on what our booking agent said we should do. We weren't who we started out to be. The music industry was never something I wanted to be apart of. I wanted to create music with my best friends and hopefully people would like it. For me “making it” was never something I strived for. But it was really great seeing my friends become some of the biggest bands in music around that same time.
Did you quit cold turkey or do you continue to dabble in music?
Actually, Joe, Matt and I started a band called Advent 3 weeks after Beloveds last show...haha. We made it a point to do things completely different then we had in the past. No management, no booking agents. We put out 2 full length records and did a few full US tours. It was definitly more aggressive then Beloved and set us apart from what we had done in the past. Joe and I still do Advent and we have a new record coming out on Bridge Nine Records called “Pain & Suffering” January 27th! We definitely do things a little different now that we are older. I've got 2 kids and a small business so touring isn't much of a option. We do about 12 shows a year.
How did your company Centennial Trading Co. come to life?
One of my best friends Erik Stephens and I were both involved in music. I was in a band and Erik was a tour manager for years. So, we were both used to traveling all the time and visiting our favorite cities throughout the country multiple times a year. When both of us decided to chill out on touring we realized we missed visiting our favorite shops throughout the country and that there wasn't anything in Winston-Salem that offered the products we liked. We knew we wanted to focus on a shop that sold only American Made items with a big focus on raw denim. After a few months of planning we opening Centennial Trading Company September 9th 2011. We were strictly a retail store for the first 2 ½ years but slowly realized that the part we loved about all of this was creating. So for the past couple of years we've been trying to create the best products we can.
You guys have some seriously great products. How did you come about learning this trade and where did the motivation come from?
Thank You! I think the success of Centennial is based a lot on how damn stubborn Erik and I are...haha We always want to continue to grow, to learn and be better. That determination has helped us grow. We didn't go to college to learn design or textile management or whatever degree is out there to help you “succeed” in this industry. We just dove in and made mistakes and tried to learn from them.
With BC Supply, we want to continue working with people we have met over the years, in and out of the music industry. We have always thought that it feels like a family network in many ways. We can relate to one another, and don’t always fit into the “normal” 9 to 5 career mold. Have you continued relationships, both working and personal, with people you met in the music industry over the years?
100%!!! Some of my best friends are from the music world. Honestly, I'd say that I've met 70% of my friends because of music and skateboarding. I think that growing up in the scene that we did it took a certain type of person to find out about the bands we liked. It took a certain type of person to seek out the records or find where the hell the venue was that these bands were playing. Before we all were playing House of Blues or the big venues we were playing in houses, churches or some sketchy bars...haha I think that determination and passion to seek information translates into they type of person I'm drawn to. So yeah, my life would be pretty different if I had t met the people I've met and experienced the things I've been blessed to experience.
I love that you guys have a storefront. Did you start out as an online shop or was that the idea from the start?
We started with a store front. What we love the most about all this are the relationships we've created. I love getting to talk to people who share the same love of design and interest in the small fashion niche that we are apart of. Obviously, web is king these days and we are moving to having a bigger online presence but we still offer that customer focused experience in our shop. The reality is it's all about building relationships...either through fashion, design, music or whatever road we take. Relationships are what define us, and connecting face to face is important to us.
What can you tell us about the process you guys use to make our duffel bags?
We make our patterns and hand cut everything in house. All bags use single needle construction and we bind the seams with a polyester tap to keep from fraying. The fabric is duck canvas from Mt. Vernon Mills and all trims are military grade.
What about those Wool Watch Caps? Those things are legit.
The watch caps are military grade and sewn in house. Nothing special about the process. Other than being extremely warm, the cool thing about 100% wool is that it’s naturally water resistant.
Do you have any specific goals for your company moving forward?
For us we always want to move forward. How can we be better than we were last year? I'd love to continue to grow our private label program. To get to work with more like minded brands to help them create some great items. I'd love to get to a point that we can start having our own fabric produced just for us. It would be rad to not only design and make the clothing but the fabric used in that shirt was knit just for us or the canvas in those pants was woven solely for us. To me that's when you step out from the rest of the pack.