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Business Casual

By John Thompson | University Communcations

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Entrepreneurial brothers Dan (left) and Brendan Reid. | Photo by Niki Desautels

Brothers Dan and Brendan Reid admit their studies took second place to snowboarding during winter quarters at WWU.

Snowboarding instead of studying doesn’t sound like a quality career-building experience, but it inspired Brendan (’01) and Dan (a former Western student who earned a marketing degree at University of Hawaii at Manoa) to combine their love of the boarding lifestyle with some business acumen to launch Casual Industrees, an up-and-coming clothing line.

“We started the company with returned damage deposits from a cabin we rented (on Mount Baker) the winter of the world-record snowfall,” says Brendan, who majored in Environmental Studies/Marketing. “We would go to school during the summers and cram the fall to take off winter quarter and do nothing but snowboard. It was paradise.”

It’s a paradise the brothers have tried to hang on to as they’ve built Casual Industrees from its humble beginnings in the basement of their Alki Beach home with a single customer, the Mount Baker Snowboard Shop in Glacier, to a national player with high-profile clients such as Nordstrom and Zumiez.

The Reid brothers recently talked about making a living – and a life – in the clothing business.

Q: What did you learn riding Sticky Wicket, The Canyon, and Honkers on top of Mount Baker that has made its way into Casual Industrees’ business model and clothing line?

Dan: Back then we used to live off $500 a month and we rode seven days a week – trying to work a normal job after that seemed pointless. Riding pow (powder) is like living the millionaire lifestyle and being a superhero; anything is possible, and it’s pure satisfaction all day long. All the money in the world can’t buy you that feeling.

So we started a clothing company to support that lifestyle, and then Casual turned into the 9-to-5 job we were trying to avoid. But at least we can take a day off when the snow conditions are really good.

Q: Dan, how long were you at WWU before heading to Hawaii?

Dan: I went to Western for five quarters, and during that time took advantage of the great international and national exchange programs that Western had to offer. These exchanges took me to Vienna, Austria, where I was introduced to international business and to Europe right before the EU came into existence; and to Hawaii, where I was introduced to marketing and learned how to surf, which changed the way I looked at the mountain.

Q: The focus of Casual’s line, and its whole initial reason for being, was local, local, local. So what is it about the local scene that has translated to national retail success with the likes of Nordstrom and Zumiez?

Brendan: You always see people identifying with L.A., San Francisco, I (heart) New York shirts, etc. ... and ironically here we were on the top of the West – in one of the most beautiful areas in the world – without any representation. The flannel shirt was dead, and we thought that local uniqueness would have broad appeal because so much of the industry has these kinds of billboard-oriented logos.

Dan: How we live in the winter in the Northwest is a lifestyle everyone who rides wants to experience, for sure. Baker has become the mythic “El Dorado” for snowboarding, and the entire scene wants to be connected to it. It’s one of the last places that is still ‘core’ and real.

I think people from everywhere can identify with elements of the lifestyle we showcase through Casual. People everywhere like to have a good time and get the most out of life, and if you create imagery that reminds them of those moments, then you are recreating that moment for them, and who doesn’t want to support that?