Steve Krzeminski and Don Kenny, both 26, met in Grade 5 (â€œIâ€™ve known him since I was ten years old. We werenâ€™t really friends in school, I just kind of knew him and our lockers were by each other, because both our last names start with K,â€ says Krzeminski, Krudmartâ€™s owner) and, in 2002, chose each other as business partners. Kenny worked with a large, online retailer in Buffalo, New York that sells draft beer equipment. â€œDon was their third employee, ever. He learned a lot while working with them, about managing an online business,â€ says Krzeminski, adding that Kennyâ€™s services as Krudmartâ€™s C.E.O. are costly, but â€œheâ€™s worth it.â€
Currently, Krudmart stocks over 30 of the finest streetwear brands, making Krudmart an Internet titanic for fashion, often stocking successful brands in their infant stages of brand development â€“ â€œFlying Coffin is definitely one of my personal favorites. Thatâ€™s somebody that we found a year ago, heâ€™s just a kid from Seattle and I donâ€™t think he was doing much, but heâ€™s blown up over the last year,â€ says Krzeminski.
In May 2007, Krudmartâ€™s store-front location was voted best menâ€™s clothing shop by Buffaloâ€™s weekly, Artvoice.
â€œâ€¦I figured that if we had a store we could pay the rent on the office, getting an office for free.â€
Format: In 2002, Krudmart was created with overstocked inventory. Please catch Format readers up to speed on Krudmartâ€™s current operations.
Steve: Last August, we signed a lease on the store and we have a store-front now. Itâ€™s 1500 square-feet, total, about 500 square-feet is the store front, thereâ€™s an office in the middle and the warehouse in the back. We were doing an online magazine, but it was so hard to keep up with. We have a blog now, but we donâ€™t update it that much. The thing is, we get so much new product and there are really only two of us doing it, so there is not much time for putting the new stuff up and packing orders.
Format: What were early challenges for Krudmartâ€™s online store?
Steve: There are eight billion websites on the Internet and getting people to know about yours is tough. It felt like we were lost in a big ocean. At first, we getting any recognition and traffic, so it was hard. We had to take the customer base that we had and stay in touch with those people and built it from there. The hardest part was getting noticed, at first.
Format: In 2006, Krudmart opened its storefront in Buffalo, New York, how did Krudmartâ€™s store-front materialize?
Steve: It was a byproduct of the website growing. When I started on my own, it was in my apartment and it was two racks of shirts. Then, I hired a friend to try and help me run it. It got a lot bigger, really fast, to the point where my living room was completely filled with clothes and he was working on the kitchen table â€“ we had to move. I thought about looking at office space and that was going to be about $600 or $700 a month, but I thought I could find a store front for about the same amount and also have a store. We needed an office and I figured that if we had a store we could pay the rent on the office, getting an office for free.
Format: What are the daily headaches at Krudmart?
Steve: We get so much spam e-mail, being that we send out so many confirmation e-mails and all this shit. The first half hour of my day is cleaning spam out of my mail. Trying to stay on top of everything, trying to make sure orders get in on time and trying to keep up on that next shit is a day to day struggle, but, pretty much, my days have no headaches.
Format: Please explain the standards a brand has to meet to establish itself in the Krudmart catalog.
Steve: Weâ€™re really picky, these days, and itâ€™s one of the cool things of being big. For the most part, we have to like it. There is no one thing or another, it has to be different; it canâ€™t be a funny slogan shirt, you have to be good at design. Iâ€™m not great at design, but I know when I see something thatâ€™s good or creative, rather, than putting some vintage celebrity on a shirt and writing something stupid underneath it. We saw a new line, today, that is inspired by hot air balloons, which sounds retarded, but itâ€™s great and I think weâ€™re going to carry it.
Format: Currently, are there particular brands that Krudmart enjoys?
Steve: The 10 Deep stuff that we have, which is in-store only, not online, is so high quality and so reasonably priced that, to me, theyâ€™re pretty much one of the best that are out there â€“ their designs are great, the quality is good and itâ€™s not ridiculously priced. Flying Coffin is definitely one of my personal favorites. Thatâ€™s somebody that we found a year ago, heâ€™s just a kid from Seattle and I donâ€™t think he was doing much, but heâ€™s blown up over the last year. Weâ€™ve been with him the whole time and that is great to see. Flying Coffin is my personal favorite that is a little under the radar.
Format: In the fashion industry, designers are currently working on their 2008 lines (and beyond!), forecasting what will be hot through social networking and intuition, how does Krudmart forecast what consumers will purchase?
Steve: Thatâ€™s a tough one. We have something like that right now. For some reason, this summer, everybody decided to do tank tops, everybody! We have about eight different line sheets of tank tops and I didnâ€™t see that coming. Itâ€™s going to be big enough that maybe weâ€™ll try it, but are people going to buy tank tops, I donâ€™t know. I havenâ€™t seen people wear tank tops in 15 years. We just have to guess and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You can keep an eye on the blogs and see whatâ€™s creating a buzz. Itâ€™s like anything else, these days, if people see other people buying it theyâ€™ll buy it.
“Itâ€™s like anything else, these days, if people see other people buying it theyâ€™ll buy it.”
Format: The streetwear industry has a handful of female brands, from a retailerâ€™s perspective, why is streetwear nearly exclusive to men?
Steve: A lot of it is, because of what it came out of. It came out of sports, skateboarding and rap music, and those are primarily things that dudes are into. Girls either donâ€™t give a shit about their appearance or theyâ€™re kind of prissy. The streetwear thing didnâ€™t translate into girls until very recently.
Format: Krudmart sounds like Kmart, is there a play on words?
Steve: No, actually, it started out as my EBay user name and I really didnâ€™t think it was going to ever be anything, I was just like whatever, it could have been Fuckmart or Shitmart. My last name starts with a K and my DJ name was Kream with a K â€“ I always put a K on everything. I didnâ€™t think I was ever going to be stuck with it like this, itâ€™s too late to change it now. But it had nothing to do with Kmart or anything else.
Format: The description blurbs for each product at Krudmartâ€™s online store are hilarious, what is Krudmartâ€™s blurb writing process?
Steve: Itâ€™s funny. I just turn my brain off. If I try to think of something funny or try to be clever, it usually comes out so bad. Iâ€™ll do it at night, read it the next day and get embarrassed. I used to think that I had to be drunk to do it, but that got kind of stupid. Caffeine helps! Iâ€™ll drink three cups of coffee and get all jittery. I just got to clear my mind and let the shit come out. Thatâ€™s my favorite part of the job. I used to want to be a writer, but then I realized you canâ€™t really make money at that.
Format: In the past 20 months, a slew of online retailers specializing in streetwear have surfaced. Please explain how Krudmart is distinct from the other online retailers.
Steve: A few of them just popped up, like Cartel Goods and Boundless NYC, but those are industry insider dudes, mostly. I donâ€™t really want to compete or emulate anybody, we just want to do our own thing, for the most part. There will be times when we have the same stuff as them and that just so happens that, that is what we wanted to do. The number one shit I want to do is have a really well designed site, have the best of the best as far as brands, I want to be entertaining and have the stuff shipped out in a day or two, at the most. The Internet is huge and there is enough room for more than one site. If we keep doing the best that we can we will be alright.
Format: Please explain the collaboration T-shirt Krudmart did with Fuct, Golden Era.
Steve: We told Eric that we wanted to do something with him and heâ€™s like, I got something and I thought we should do something kind of dirty and crazy. Heâ€™s like, â€˜This one is going to be kind of out thereâ€™ and I thought that was cool â€“ the crazier the better. It was perfect off the bat, I just said put a necklace on there with our logos. That thing did amazingly well! I was just hoping to get some coverage for it to have people take us more seriously, because there hasnâ€™t been a website that kind of started as a brand on its own. Like the way Supreme did it. When Supreme came out it was just a skate shop and little by little they became a brand on their own. The first collaboration, we sold 350 of those shirts and pretty quickly, too. I wanted it to be more limited than that, but his printer would only do that as their smallest run. It was great, Iâ€™m super happy with it, but I wonder where people wear that thing. It was a good feeling to know that we could put a naked lady with her vagina spread on the front of a shirt and people will buy it. We didnâ€™t invent naked women, but weâ€™re pushing it a little bit and Iâ€™m all for it, because Iâ€™d much rather look at that than flowers.