Zoo York is one of New York’s most recognized skateboarding brands worldwide and behind the scenes Ben Oleynik keeps everything in check. From managing the team to all the Marketing & PR Ben does it all and he’s a ripper too! We had a chance to interview the Canadian transplant and here’s what he had to say about how he got involved with Zoo, Zoo’s rep & team to the latest Zoo York Kings series.
Q. So you’ve been running the show at Zoo York for a few years now. Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Zoo.
A. When I first moved to New York, I met SteveR [Rodriguez] and [Mark] Nardeli at 5Boro and started helping them out with some Summer events and other marketing stuff they had going on. Nardelli also ran ZOO at the time and hooked me up with a job and a work Visa. He really took me under his wing. He put my first Visa on his personal credit card before he even knew if he could get reimbursed for it. Nar is a G. I owe him so much.
Q. Zoo York’s rep has been bruised up a bit throughout the past 20 years. How has that impacted the brand and how are you maintaining the Zoo York reputation?
A. The brand has experienced some growing pains over the last 20 years, however, we’ve worked super hard and ZOO is in a great place today. We’ve got an amazing team of six PROs, three AMs and an international squad. We build special product for core shops. We partner with and support the skate magazines and sites every month. We sponsor and contribute to local events. Every year we work with the Harold Hunter Foundation, Stoked Mentoring and the A.skate Foundation. We constantly make donations to kids in need on the East Coast.
We just launched our KINGS collection that is 100% for skate shops and celebrates a number of legends from the East. There are so many amazing things happening here on the East Coast and ZOO continues to showcase that.
Q. You mentioned the team. What have the boys been up to this past year?
A. The last year has been epic for the team. True East dropped, then the Yankee Stadium video, then our South America tour, Westgate’s Emerica part was insane. Just on and on. Everybody is putting in work right now, stacking for our King of New York video we are releasing at the end of the year.
Q. Tell us a little more about what Zoo York Kings is all about, what inspired it, who is involved and what is it’s mission?
A. We wanted to have a premium line just for skate shops, so we created KINGS. Chapman, our hardgoods partner from day one designs, manufactures and distributes it. The mission is to work with skate shops to celebrate East Coast skateboarding and that’s what we’re doing.
Q. Your first ZY Kings collab is with the Harold Hunter Foundation, an amazing organization celebrating the life of original Zoo York member Harold Hunter, what’s the collab all about?
A. If we were going to honor KINGS of New York and East Coast skateboarding, Harold had to be first. He left an indelible mark on the city and skateboarding in general. It’s always an honor to celebrate Harold and work with the foundation.
Q. You mentioned to me that working with local skate shops is extremely important to you, what does ZY have in the mix for local shops right now?
A. Yeah, it’s extremely important to me. We work with shops like Labor and KCDC in New York and independent skate shops worldwide. They do so much for the skate community and have such an important role in shaping and supporting their local scene.
Q. Chapman has been producing ZY boards since day one, what’s your favorite deck in the Chapman wall collection?
A. There are too many to name. Chaz and Brandon’s first boards are very special to me. I’ve seen them go from young AMs coming up to two of the most talented and unique PROs out. It’s been amazing to watch.
Q. I asked Brandon this question, but I’m curious who has your favorite part in Mixtape?
A. Growing up, I loved that video so much. The entire thing. Still do. I’d have to say the part I watched most though was Pang’s. He had such a raw power and raw style. Crazy pop, skating down the middle of the street at night, the Keith Nut and Fat Joe track; it just made you want to skate New York.
Q. Lastly, what are your goals for ZY in 2014? Last words?
A. Same as always: support our scene, support our people, and support our retailers. Do something meaningful and contribute to the community. Thank you for the interview, Rick, and all that you do for skateboarding in New York.