Company Spotlight: Grey Matter Hardgoods

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Grey Matter Hardgoods came out of nowhere and is now everywhere. I can’t go a day without hearing great praise about their anti rockers or seeing an advertisement promoting their product or mindset…and that is a good thing. GMH is here and they are making an impact. After working with TJ Gleason on this interview I found a new level of respect for him and I’m glad he’s back into blading. Welcome back TJ!

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SUAS: Before we dive into Grey Matter Hardgoods let’s take a trip down memory lane to remind bladers that you aren’t new to the “industry”. Can you give us the story of the clothing line you once had and what eventually happened to it?
TJ:
For sure, Brian. Roughly ten years ago I experimented with running my own clothing brand. For those of your readers that are still around from those days, they might actually remember ICR (I.nnovative C.reative R.olling) or even have one of the shirts; assuming they have survived a decade of rolling and washing! The company was started specifically for our crew in Toledo, Ohio, and what started as selling to my friends and family turned into a small business. I had a lot of fun with it. I printed five or six designs on tees and various other soft goods. Through traveling and skating I was able to grow the project but ultimately, like many of us in the industry, life changes occur and projects have to change or end. This was the case for ICR. It was sad to let go of something I created but was grateful for the people I met through it and for the experience I gained; especially the experience in navigating the “business” of our sport.

After a hiatus from rollerblading I decided to come back to the sport and the industry; this was roughly a year ago. In my time away I gained a lot more business experience as well as skills that lend themselves to manufacturing various types of hardware. Armed with these skill sets I was determined to do something meaningful in the aftermarket goods space in the blading industry.

SUAS: I still have my ICR tees in NYC at my Mom’s house! Now with this brief history as an introduction with a sneak peak of what you’ve been up to can you elaborate more on your past hardware experiences as it pertains to Grey Matter?
TJ:
I’ve done an extensive amount of product fabrication in the construction industry, producing all types of components, using a lot of different materials. Gaining this experience and knowledge has helped me deciding what kind of tooling to use in various applications especially as it pertains to our core product line, the Grey Matter anti-rockers.

SUAS: What made you decide to dive back into the blading business and go into hardgoods as opposed to soft goods?
TJ:
The decision to move into hardgoods was pretty clear to me. The current parts market is based on a concept of failure by design. Companies produce products they know have a limited life span and will fail after they have reached that point. This ensures the purchase of replacement parts and this is ultimately where companies make their money. I can’t fault them for that, especially with boot sales on the decline and prices for skates and parts on the rise. It just seemed like a bad system to me. We all spend a fortune on our skates anyways; we should have components that last a long time to protect the investment.

When I planned out GMH I wanted to take the current model, one of planned and anticipated destruction/failure, and turn it on its head. I would do this by producing parts that both allowed for skate customization and personalization as well as creating a product standard of quality based on longevity. Simply put, I wanted to create products that looked awesome and lasted a long time. I want GMH to set that standard and show this sport, the one I’ve loved since I was a child, that we can do better and more importantly, we deserve it.

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SUAS: Who is the creative team behind the company Grey Matter Hardgoods and who is out there killing the streets as part of the movement?
TJ:
The creative and organizational team consists of Grant Schildhouse, from the softgoods company First and Lexington and myself. Grant, with his experience and background in marketing and design, leads the marketing side of the business. We both focus on product concept, design and testing. I am the dreamer and the doer. I physically take ideas and concepts and turn them into designs and products. Orders come in and I handle them personally. When you message GMH you will get a personal response from Grant or myself. Our dedication to our customers is unmatched. Now, with all that said, everyone has input…especially our team. They are out their risking their necks every day just to promote the products, so we take their suggestions very seriously. Anything to improve the brand is considered valid in our eyes. This is true even when we get them from our customers. The last two special edition colors have come from customer suggestions. The Team consists of Craig Parsons, Kevin LeBron, Brandon Nguyen, Justin Thursday and Jon Fromm. These guys are amazing and I couldn’t be happier with their involvement. We plan on expanding the team as we ourselves grow as a business.

SUAS: Growing a company from the ground up is not easy but I have been seeing a huge buzz going around in social media regarding Grey Matter. What difficulties have you ran into so far with the growth of this company?
TJ:
Setting us apart of what is currently available and what once was available is always a stumbling block. Don’t get me wrong; there are some great products on the market now. I’m not denying that. That said, only a few are really breaking the mold and that’s the level we want to achieve with our products, so that’s a definite challenge. Part of that means improving design and material quality. With regard to our core products, the GMH Grey oil-infused UHMW anti-rockers, we wanted to create a product that addressed a lot of the issues with the products currently available. One of the biggest complaints we found during research was “wheel clack,” that plasticy rattling sound that comes from ill-fitting anti-rockers. We took the most commonly used frames and measured the wheel hubs to produce a wheel that was snug fitting, solid and eliminated wheel clack. We didn’t want to push clack on a population already addicted to clack. Clack kills, yo.

Other complaints included poor materials, slow (urethane mostly), crappy shelf life and failure to do what the products where designed to do. The shape and sizes of our anti-rockers were intentional. We looked at the best performing anti-rocker wheels through out our sport’s history and tested the most common diameters and found two that consistently keep you centered and locked in while grinding. That is, after all, what anti-rockers were designed to do, right? We chose high-grade oil infused UHMW for two reasons. The stuff is damn near bullet-proof (Disclaimer: GMH anti-rockers are not reliable as bullet proof body armor…they are also probably not suitable flotation devices.). We have had some of our testers on our original design for months now and they are only showing minimal wear. These guys are on rails, ledges, jersey barriers, you name it and we are seeing only surface level wear. The oil-infusion in the UHMW is fantastic as well. If you like a smooth, fast grind, then these are definitely for you. We are sticking with these designs and these materials because have proven they work and last. We have had guys call and write and tell us they will never use any other product in this category ever again. That’s a huge win for us.

SUAS: Grey Matter is an interesting name, then again I’m bias since grey has always been my favorite color but what is the symbolism of the name?
TJ:
Haha, I agree, I’m simple with my color schemes. When I started to produce our first anti-rockers and as more people bought them, I thought I should label these to better identify them. I wanted to create a brand identity and turn this into a business and not just something I did for my friends. The following day I was reading an article in some science and health magazine about the brain and the phrase gray matter was referenced. Gray matter in the brain is an essential component in the central nervous system. It is the biomaterial that all other cells aspire to be and are controlled by. It seemed to fit into our hopes for what we want to be seen as in the aftermarket parts component of our industry.

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SUAS: With such knowledge and passion driving this project forward what other plans are you sketching up for Grey Matter Hardgoods future in blading?
TJ:
Grey Matter Hardgoods was built on the mindset of better products for bladers. Longer lasting, faster products with more option in customization including colors. We want to provide customers choices, not just what we decide should be out. Our stepping stone and introduction to us was antirockers. Our next phase is brand specific souls using our specific materials. Our product is manufactured in US and machined the US and we are proud of this.

SUAS: With us already 1/4 into the new year of 2015 and so many new events popping up in almost every region I can just imagine how much the GMH presence will be felt. Can you give us a preview of some of the comps Grey Matter will be sponsoring?
TJ:
Yeah man, we will make our presence known. We currently are sponsoring the Texas Street Series, Florida State Blading events, JSMS ’15, and looking forward to Motortown 😜 It should be a fun year!

SUAS: On a more personal level…what is your background in blading? How did you start and who were some of your earliest influences?
TJ:
I started with a childhood group of friends and took off from there! Got a hand me down pair of Baumstimlers and a Bbell vhs classic “Street Dwellaz”. IMYTA’s were next and I was hooked! Shima, Latimer were my influences back then. “What do you believe in? ” was and still is my favorite video of all time.

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SUAS: Any last words and/or shout outs?
TJ:
Thank you to all the supporters that have been behind us since the beginning, expect to see some great products and skating from our team in 2015! 🙌

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*This pics is from many years ago when TJ and I first met in person during his trip to NYC. Good times my friend!

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One Response to “Company Spotlight: Grey Matter Hardgoods”

  1. […] Company Spotlight: Grey Matter Hardgoods – Full Article. […]

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