The life story of Juho Haapala doesn’t differ much from that of some Hollywood biopic about an individual who prepares himself thoroughly to become something and then dodges it to follow the real passion. Graduated in international logistics engineering, Haapala’s real devotion is skate. While doing an internship in Chicago at a shipping company, he got into the local scene through the Uprise Skateshop crew and discovered his interest in having a shop. First though, and once he was back in his home country Finland, Haapala applied successfully to work with Finnish skateboard distributor Skateland Distribution at the age of 23, where he collected almost four years of experience as a purchase manager. He still has words of gratitude for his former employers Harri Puupponen and Erkka Niemi today. “I know that the fact that they believed in my ability to handle things is still one of the most important reasons I’m still working in this industry today. I just needed that extra push to believe in myself,” he says.
In December 2006, his Chicago ambitions were realized by opening his own shop Beyond Oy in Jyvaskylä. “At that time, shops were already struggling a bit and I knew I wanted to open a place that will last and survive ups and downs in the future. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to have a sneaker collection and also brands from outside of skateboarding. The name wasn’t picked randomly, it was reflecting a particular philosophy from the very beginning,” he explains.
With the store on the verge of turning ten years old, Haapala talks about skate symbols going mainstream and why you have to be like Peter Pan in the retail business and never grow up.
How did you get into the skate world?
For me it's that regular ‘Back To The Future’ story: Marty McFly hanging behind the Jeep and waiving to the girls in the gym. There was no turning back after seeing that. Thank you Marty! It's been an epic ride!
What are the top-performing brands and products for you right now?
The brand base has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It is pretty obvious that big brands with history are doing well. Like Nike, Adidas, Levi's, Carhartt etc. Polar has paved the path for the smaller skate brands.
Where do you order your products and which criteria do you follow to take buying decisions?
First comes the brand of course. Brand must be right. Hearing the customer base is also really important. For bigger brands, I often visit showrooms and place orders by holding samples. I also go to tradeshows to see the bigger picture of the seasons. With smaller brands, it means PDF files and endless mouse scrolling. It’s all good.
Do you feel that there’s a lack of dedicated trade shows for stores like yours?
I am totally satisfied with the tradeshows I visit in Berlin (Seek) and in Copenhagen (Revolver and CIFF). Capsule Paris is the one I will add to my calendar for next year.
Skate culture icons are experiencing a renaissance currently –Thrasher tops, knee socks, Dickies pants…–. What’s your opinion with regard to skate symbols going mainstream?
Everyone knows that this is not a first thing happening in skateboarding's history. Every generation goes through the same ‘issue’. We just love our culture so much we want to protect it. Personally, I never thought that anything or anyone can come between me and my skateboarding: neither Olympics nor celebrities wearing skate brands, nothing! It’s just me and friends having fun. Those kind of things don't ruin my day. About Thrasher hoodies... hell yes! Girls look hot in Thrasher hoodies! Any skater can’t deny that fact. But again.. that definitely doesn’t ruin my slappycurb sessions.
Whether it’s Rihanna in a Thrasher hoodie or Olympics, I think those have only positive effects in our culture. It's great that some skatebrands like Thrasher and Palace are getting major visibility in the fashion world.
Have you added any new labels to your assortment for the fall’16 season? Why?
Norse Projects is our latest addition which I’m am really happy about.
Are there many skate aficionados in Jyvaskylä?
Yes! We have a really strong skateboard culture in Jyväskylä. JKL has been one of the major skate cities in Finland since the early ‘90s. There is now a second great generation from Jyväskylä in its prime at the moment. Beyond riders are shining! We have amazing variety of riders... from Finnish legends to up-and-coming. It's definitely rad pack of dudes who I am really proud of.
What are the biggest challenges in the retail landscape at present?
This is a tough one. In retail business it is really important to never grow up. You have to stay curious. You have to follow what’s going on in the overall business and not just in your own section. As the landscape is constantly changing, the biggest challenge is to stay on top of the wave. Best place to be is in the position where you don't want to look back anymore, the position from where you can easily see which way to turn so that you won't get washed away.