As part of the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of stalwart Manchester SOS The Black Sheep Store, Harry and Tez have linked up again with enjoi to drop an exclusive collaboration enjoi skateboard.
Officially released last Saturday (21st July), the enjoi x Black Sheep deck comes in three widths starting at 8 inches, with a steady 8.25" and a larger 8.5" number.
Emblazoned with the Union Jack and featuring co-branding the form of black Sheep's classic Public Enemy inspired taget logo - this one would've been perfect for window-hanging had it actually 'come home' this year. Instead, you'll just have to skate it, like Black Sheep and enjoi flow rider Seb Batty did.
You can see evidence of that in the associated clip below filmed by Nick Richards, (with titles by Black Sheep family member Isaac Wilkinson). This is the second enjoi collaboration with The Black Sheep (see below) and sits alongside various other successful brand collaborations like the Element x Black Sheep board released earlier this year, and the New Balance Black Sheep vs Black Sheep shoe released back in 2016 in conjunction with both Black Sheep stores in Manchester and North Carolina.
Given that they've just reached a very definitive milestone, (especially considering the currently perilous situation for independent skate retail as a whole), we took the opportunity to catch a few words with Black Sheep Store's head honcho Paul 'Harry' Harrison about what it takes to survive for a decade.
Huge congratulations and respect from all of us here to everyone at Black Sheep - you are shatterproof rulers!
Image courtesy of Speedway Mag
So Black Sheep celebrates its 10th anniversary this month - is that ten years from the very beginning, as re Central skatepark too, or ten years in the current location?
Central skatepark started in 2006 and Black Sheep started in 2008 at Central, we moved to Dale Street in 2015, so technically this is the 10th anniversary of Black Sheep as a shop, even though Central skatepark was around for a couple of years prior to that.
Can you give us a bit of the back story of Black Sheep's birth please? You had been involved with skate retail stretching back into the 80's with the original Sheep store and the infamous Split Skates, and Tez had personal involvement prior to the current set up through his job at Bones Bolton - how did the two of you come to join forces?
I started work at Split Skates in 1986, at the time it sold a few pieces of Rip Grip and stickers and not much else. The owner, Granville, brought me in as the skateboard person and I quickly became the buyer/shop assistant for everything related to skateboarding. I got a given a van and started visiting Bristol once a week for Shiner, Rollermania etc and then Lincs for Hotshot to pick up product: to say it got out of hand by 1988 was an understatement, (laughing).
It ended up with over 10 of us all working in Split and a heavy Manchester Crew was formed. After I left Split I started Sheep store with Chris Hamer, we did that for a few years and it was rad to be our own bosses. Clothing was becoming a thing and I started Defunct clothing and became my own little Mike Baldwin.
Throughout all this time period, Tez and I were in the same places but never really got to know each other until later on after Central had started and Tez was on driving duties for the Vans 'Are We There Yet?' Tour. The amount of times we have both had stories in the same places at the same times without really being aware of each other is frightening.
I've always assumed that the Black Sheep name is a reference to the original 'Sheep' store - is that right?
Not exactly, Chris (Hamer) came up with the name 'Sheep' originally because he believed everyone followed each other. Myself and Eddie Belvedere came up with 'Black Sheep' one day in Central because we felt like the odd ones out/outsiders /rebels without a clue, (laughs). But yeah, you're right, the nod to the original Sheep store wasn't a bad thing at the same time.
How long were you at the Central unit for and what happened with that one? Was it a case of needing more retail space in a spot with more footfall? Or were you just over the skatepark side of the business?
(Laughing), eight years of time served in Central: a ton of good times! When we started out there was little in the way of indoor skateparks in Manchester so I felt it was needed. Eight years later and parks and concrete were everywhere so it wasn't needed anymore. I fully respect anyone who can run a park and keep it going, it's not easy, but I'm stoked that we did it. The new store was just a natural progression.
You held so many great events in that place - all-nighters, demo's, contests, etc, etc - which ones stand out as cherished memories for you and Harry?
Harry: Wow! For me there were so many good times: I seem to remember we had a Sumo Jam in the ditch (involving a couple of Sumo wrestler costumes) and Rob Smith jumped from the highest extension onto Stannerz! Winning the first ever Shop Riot on home turf was a good memory as well but there are too many to remember them all but what I will say is that most of them ended fairly messily.
Working with Ollie Tyreman will always be a good memory - apart from him setting the alarm off at 4 in the morning and me driving into town to take on some burglars, only to find a spangled Tyreman roaming the corridors.
What about the nightmares? Anything that went on in the Central location that you're still trying to forget?
Yeah - plenty of broken bones with kids walking in to reception with backwards elbows asking "do you think this is broken?" How we made it through eight years with only one claim, I will never know.
Eddie and I were in one night and a kid hobbled into the reception with his calf muscle hanging off, probably one of the worst things I have ever seen but the kid was pretty chilled, called an ambulance, no problem. A few months later he came back with tons of stitches happy as larry.
We had some great times in Central - here's a little reminder of the place.
You've been in a couple of different locations since moving back into town but seem pretty settled in the Dale St shop - what makes that a good location? Footfall? Students? No Spice Zombies?
It's an M1 postcode so is really central to Manchester but is situated just back from the hecticness; so, rather than getting 300 random people that don't buy anything lingering in the shop all day, we get all our regulars and a few passers by that are not trying to rob anything!
It's chilled and very convenient, which is prefect for us.
Black Sheep have always been super-proactive when it comes to the Internet - whether it's creating your own content, being active on Social, doing collabs with brands etc - that's got to be massively important to skate retailers now right? Bricks and mortar are the lifeblood but it's the Internet that feeds everything, surely?
Yes, the Internet is the only future for most retail right now, we won't know fully if that is a very bad thing or not until it reaches its climax, and as tech shopping evolves, we will really see the end game.
We're not going to grumble about that though as it's rhetorical, but that doesn't mean that our creativity, customer service and product knowledge isn't going to keep on progressing.
The Internet isn't an excuse to not still be a great skateshop.
What else do you have planned for your 10th anniversary?
A whole bunch of stuff: one of my favorites is working with Jon Horner on a few tees, in fact they are so geeky that no one will get what the fuck we are doing probably, but I love it anyway...
If you both had to give one piece of advice for anyone out there either just starting out in skate retail, or thinking about it, from the point of view of being 10 years deep - what would you say?
Stay creative, realize that creative people are all around you and harness them and just do the best job you can do.