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Matt Hensley on Innes and other ventures

By Tiffany Montgomery
April 05, 2008 6:01 AM

I drove down to Carlsbad Wednesday to meet Matt Hensley of Innes Clothing before he flew off to Japan this morning with his band, Flogging Molly.


Matt, a former professional skateboarder, has several ventures going: Innes, a clothing brand sold around the world that he wants to push to the next level; playing accordion with Flogging Molly, whose latest album reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in March; and owner of Hensley's Flying Elephant Pub & Grill in Carlsbad.


Here's what Matt had to say about all three ventures:


Innes Clothing


Innes jacketThe look: When Matt started Innes in 1996 with his brother, Chris, he wanted the clothes to have the styles he liked - more punk rock, old mod-boy vibe. He included pegged pants in the line, which were out of style during that big pants era. "Now everybody's wearing pegged pants," he said. "I'm either the biggest idiot or ahead of the time. I'm not sure."


Innes management team: About 2.5 years ago, Matt and his partners made some changes internally after the company hit rough times. He brought in Glenn Brumage as sales and marketing vice president and Matt's partner Bob Arthur took over operations. Then a year ago, Innes hired Jay Mitchell from Billabong to head up design. "We're more on point now," Matt said. "Everything is merchandised properly. The feeling was always good about the brand, but the clothing was not the best in the world. Now we have both."


Goals: Matt wants Innes, which is profitable, to grow, he said. "I'm still trying to crack the nut," he said. The goal is to grow in existing accounts and there's also a couple of hundred doors Innes still wants to be in. In 2007, revenues grew 10 percent and the plan calls for 10 percent growth this year as well. "The most important thing is to keep it real, to not sell out," Matt said. How will Innes achieve that if it gets big? "I don't know, but it would be a great problem to have to ponder." The company is trying to drive sales with magazine advertising, grass roots skate tours, and on-time shipping and other strong customer service for retailers.


Innes TCarolyn Lopez of CD Skateshop in Staten Island, NY, on Innes: "Of all the brands we deal with, Innes is one of the biggest (sellers). We sell a lot of their stuff. From the first day, they've sold through each time." Carolyn said the clothes appeal to skater kids but also people who walk in off the street. Plus, everyone gets excited when they realize Matt is in Flogging Molly. "Each part - the band and Innes - play off the other part," Carolyn said.


Flogging Molly


The beginning: Matt became involved in Flogging Molly in 1997 when it was a bar band. It slowly grew into a full touring band that's on the road seven months of the year.


The hiatus: Matt quit the band about 1.5 years ago when he worried he was missing too much of his 10-year-old son's life. It didn't last long though. "I couldn't stay away from music," he said. "It's very powerful and very positive." So he's back in the band and back on the road.


The Innes connection: No matter where he is playing around the world, Matt puts Innes retailers on the guest list and hangs out with them after the show. He also goes into the audience to shake hands with guys wearing Innes Clothing. He also checks in often from the road to make sure the business is on track.


The pub


Why he started it: He needed something to do when he quit the band and always wanted to create a family-style pub with live music modeled after the pubs in Europe. He had no experience owning a bar or restaurant. "I knew what I wanted it to look like, what I wanted it to feel like. These are my accordions on the wall, my art work, my records," he said. It opened nine months ago.


The reality: "Owning a pub is much harder than I thought it would be," he said. "I'm getting better on how to deal with situations, to deal with big problems because everyday, that's what it is. There's some big crisis. Three days ago, I fired my whole kitchen staff. I was thinking, ‘I'm a skater, I play music.' But I'm the boss now and I had to do it...I'm glad I (opened the pub) now, but at times I wasn't. It's such a massive amount of work." The good news is the pub broke even in the second month.


Matt makes a fine living with Flogging Molly so I had to ask him: Why do the pub?


"I'm driven. I always wanted to do it so I'm doing it. It would be a lot easier if I didn't, but I like the challenge. I self impose a lot of battles on myself."


Here's a link to a Flogging Molly video on YouTube.


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