Daily Ops Special Blend

Founder and general of the Four Star Distribution army Raul Ries looked no farther than a whiskey-bottle label for the name Special Blend. He claims he was just out there “hustling” before starting up the outerwear brand, but clearly he had a plan. Ries began assembling a team of pro riders that included Marc Morisset, Jason Bump, Joel Mahaffey, and Jason Carrougher, among others-this was back in 1992. At the time, snowboarding was on the brink of explosion and Ries’ timing and tact couldn’t have been better. These were snowboarding’s zany days and amid a sea of fly-by-night brands, Special Blend came out strong. They introduced waterproof denim, saggy fit, and image-based ad campaigns that set them apart from the pack. One of veteran teamrider Brian Thien’s ads-him atop a pool table with a golf putter in a meadow-was a standout. From the same season was Brad Gross’ ad with him playing a pinball machine at night in the shadow of a giant concrete dinosaur. Then there was another series of ads-Devun Walsh holding the maple leaf, Marc Morisset with the Polaroid picture, Thien with the Zippo, all memorable. Brian Thien offers, “In the early days, Niko Achtipes had a lot to do with the look of Special Blend, he had a lot of good ideas.” These days, Herb George drives the ad-design desk.When it comes to the gear, teamriders work with Brand Manager Omar Quiambao and Designer Robert Myers to combine rider input with the finished product. “Our designers know what’s going on with fashion and where it’s going next. They know the materials, fabrics. They just come up with stuff and ask us for feedback. It’s not a big deal, they’re like, ‘Hey, check this out, tell us what you think,’ Thien explains. Backing this up, Omar offers, “All teamriders contribute their ideas-this year JP wanted to ride in a denim jacket, so we developed a fully functional denim outerwear jacket for him and the new line.”The Special Blend branch of the Four Star family tree is run by a team of six people in design and merchandising. There’s also Marketing Manager Steve Ruff and Team Manager Ricky Melnik sweating the details as well as their distribution resources. Ruff claims that new for the team this year is, “Ice and Benzs.” He worked as the TM for years, and has been with Blend since way back in the day: “Part of my job is to help blow up these kids, and try to make them rich and famous. It’s pretty rad to grab kids who have potential and give them the exposure they need to become worldwide stars.” But all cash, cars, and clout aside, there is more at work here, Ruff adds, “You end up spending so much time with these guys, you’re actually helping them grow up. I can’t count how many times I’ve had calls at, like, three in the morning, just to ask me what they should do about some girl, or what they should say-some pretty funny stuff. I’m a lucky man.” Thien concurs, “With the team, each year our relationship gets stronger, and it’s not just on a business level-we do all different stuff together-this is personal.”Special Blend Team ListNate BozungNico DrozJoni MalmiBrian ThienJP Walker