Friday, July 3, 2009
The Dirty Dozen: (n.) a series of 12 questions posed to interesting people about what they do, where they live, and what gets them going.
A little while ago, I posed 12 questions to Ryan. Between running one of the best men's shops around, collaborating with the likes of Alden on the recently launched Tanker Boot as well as Kicking Mule on the hand-dyed 1980 (only 50 pairs, so get 'em while the gettin's good), and rebuilding an '82 Honda CB 750f, he found some time to answer them. He's a guy who knows his stuff, is earnest about what he does and has a fondness for the fooch (ask him...) Here's the first installment.
1)For the record, state your name, age and occupation. Madison born and bred?
Ryan Huber, 33, Co-Owner Creative Director Context. Born in Kenosha, WI lived in Madison since 1994.
2)Back story, you and I met how?
Shea Parton, Brand director for Apolis Activism, and I met in NY to discuss the marketing strategies. Shea and I have become great friends. We refer to the Apolis Context dynamic as a shared success. I took advantage of my time in NY to meet with Chris Olberding from Gitman Brother's Vintage. Shea wanted us all to meet. I was quite excited to be in such great company: Chris Olberding (Gitman), Shea Parton (Apolis), Max Wastler (allplaidout), Marie Havens (Mend- Division of Invisible Children), You and your lovely wife Kim. Max later reminded me that I told you that you look like your blog. I may have told him the same. It is true for both of you. Shea has the disposition of someone who truly wants to do his part in making the world a better place-- there is no quit in Shea. Chris is perfect for Gitman Brothers. His style is all about proportion and fit and his approach is refreshingly direct and honest.
3)Tell me a little about Context. When did it start? How? The thinking behind the shop and what you sell.
My business partners Sam his brother Ben and I opened Context in 2005. Sam and I saw an opportunity to open a shop that offered an inventory unique to the men's market. When we opened there were not any true dry selvage denim specialty shops, especially online. What we've been able to do with Context is cultivate a fascination for authentic fabrics and honest production. We are known to pontificate about our organic cotton twill hand dyed in Japan, coated canvas circa 1950, Kyoto violet indigo chambray, and veg. tanned glove leather, et. al.
4) You run a shop with a strong Internet presence, carrying a very curated selection of labels. Aside from that side of your business, which I always return to again and again, Madison isn't New York or LA or Chicago, etc. And I mean no disrespect, but in terms of running such a of the moment shop, how do you think your geography effects the shop? Vice versa?
Sam and I are both Wisconsin natives. Madison is very well traveled, intelligent, politically progressive, green and friendly. The city is filled with bicycle paths and great restaurants (a high percentage are locally owned using locally raised ingredients). Our shop is 1/2 block from the State Capital Building and within walking distance of lakes Monona and Mendota. People prefer to buy local and expect value. Guys are excited to have a shop like ours in little Madison. Online clients love our level of customer service.
5)I imagine there being a very tight knit group of people like yourself, and based on our brief meeting, I can tell you are serious about your denim, serious about quality, about the provenance of things you sell...Would you say that there's a "scene" in Madison that you (or Context) is apart of?
My friends have joked that Context has created an archetype within Madison. Guys come to us for advice on fit as well as style and they leave knowing they are part of a small group. The shop has allowed us to meet the city's most active and engaging personalities. Developers, professors, stylists, photographers, bicycle messengers, mechanics, and politicians alike not only shop Context, but stop by to hang out. We are located in the King Street neighborhood-- the best spot in Madison.
6) If I were to roll into Madison, what are some places I would have to go? Things I couldn't leave without doing?
This is the second most commonly asked question in the shop. (number one being, "how much will my APC's stretch?". Start by renting a bicycle from Machinery Row Bicycles-- this is the best way to view the city. The Saturday Farmer's Market on the Captial square is one of the best in the country. People go crazy for the spicy cheese bread, but the breakfast sandwiches at Ingrid's Lunch Box are my favorite. Stop by J.Taylors Antiques for a view of his amazing collection and be prepared to chat. His prices are loosely based on your interest level. I chatted with him for 5 hours one day and left with a full stuffed lion.
Next, rent a kayak, paddle Lake Mendota, and stop at the University Memorial Union Terrace for a brat (preboiled in beer) and a sconni brew. I usually have 4 of each. Check out tables full of UW students and faculty indulging in conversation and finishing off pitchers of beer. This time of year I like to hit up a Madison Mallards game in the early evening, baseball is in my blood.
6 1/2) Your favorite bar?
For an early evening cocktail and absolute best over the bar conversation with staff, go to Natt Spil. Chef David Oliver and barman Matthew Stebbins cover current events and local gossip with brilliant delivery-- the food and beverage offering is brilliantly conceived uncommonly good for a mid-price point restaurant (top 100 bars in the country Food & Wine 2009). My pics are the Lake Louie Premium APA or a glass of Las Rocas Garnacha and anything off the Dim Sum list.
Look for pt. 2 in the coming days.
Max, at All Plaidout, paid Ryan a recent visit (where hasn't he paid a visit to, seriously). For further insight, look for his piece to post in the coming days as well. And if you want to know how much your A.P.C.'s will stretch, call Context.
113 King St.
Madison WI 53703
#: 608 250-0113
Mon. - Wed. 12 pm - 5 pm
Thu. - Sat. 12 pm - 7 pm
Sun. 12 pm - 3 pm