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October  2 0 1 7

E X E C U T I V E   D I G E S T




Stuart Freides joins Stoneage Arts Global

Stuart Freides

Stoneage Arts Global is pleased to announce that Stuart Freides has joined its team as Vice President of Sales and Product Support.

Freides brings to the team an extensive background working with customers and companies in the gift, zoo, aquarium and resort markets. Along with implementing Stoneage Arts Global’s fair trade strategies for new business development, he brings new views and experiences to the product development team.

The company is excited, as this hire strengthens its team and ensures continued success for the organization’s work. Reach Freides by emailing stuartf@stoneagearts.com.



There Is a New Leader Atop The Mountain

CEO Striving for More Depth for Gift and Souvenir Shops
By Chris Kuroda
Kenny Ballard

It’s a typical weekday at The Mountain production facility in southern New Hampshire. Deep in the belly of a reconfigured old mill, small teams of workers shepherd hundreds of brightly colored T-shirts through a multi-step printing process, adding howling wolves to a batch of died grey shirts and a snarling Tyrannosaurs Rex image to kid-sized red shirts.

“Nobody is making T-shirts as cool as these” said Kenny Ballard above the hum of the printing machines. Ballard, 53, was named CEO of The Mountain in May. As he approaches his first International Gift Expo of the Smokies he’s downright giddy about the direction ahead for the company that’s made its name making iconic artist T-shirts that are staples in souvenir shops around the world.

For 25 years, The Mountain has been creating and curating art that appeals to a broad fan base. As the company, now under new ownership, moves forward with increasing the breadth and depth of its product line, it’s stepping up its commitment to be a global art lifestyle brand.

“No question our T-shirts are the heart of the company,” said Ballard, as he ducked into a quieter nook of the building, away from the din of the machinery. He picked up a just-finished shirt heading to be folded, admiring the dye process that makes every Mountain shirt unique. “The artisans here have done a great job with gift shop retailers and T-shirts over the years, but there is more to do, more we could offer and deeper partnerships to explore.”

Ballard came to The Mountain from a long career in the outdoor industry. Prior to moving to New Hampshire he was the Chief Operating Officer for Colorado-based Osprey Backpacks. Before Osprey he served as president of a recreation product company that had brands like Kelty, Sierra Designs, Slumberjack and Ultimate Direction in its stable. He began his career in retail selling sailboards, skateboards and surf apparel.

Outdoor, said Ballard, is one of those industries that continues to place real value in specialty retail. “In recent years,” said Ballard, “outdoor brands have worked hard to keep the smaller shops out from under the shadows of the big national chains. That’s something we want to nurture in souvenir and gift, too.”

Ballard notes the striking similarities at the retail level between the gift/souvenir industry and the outdoor industry. Both are fragmented markets, and in general, both independent specialty outdoor shops and gift shops have small staffs. And, of course, each shop is competing against the internet and a bigger retailer (often a chain) right down the road.

“And,” Ballard added with a chuckle, “for both specialty outdoor and gift shops there is a healthy, steady profit to be made in selling T-shirts.”

Gift shop sales represent a healthy percent of all sales for The Mountain. But adding in souvenir shops at zoos, museums, aquariums to that pushes the overall total to a significant portion of The Mountain’s annual sales.

“Clearly this is an industry that’s important to us,” said Ballard. “The challenge before us is increasing our value to gift and souvenir shops. We know the retail experience is undergoing a rapid change. We, as a manufacturer and supplier, have to be nimble to help our retailers navigate that change.” At IGES, The Mountain will show off its new branding and an expanded and redesigned line of shirts, hoodies and other clothing products like trucker caps and infant onesies. The company calls these products “artwear.”

As Ballard took over at The Mountain, the company was in the process of increasing its product offerings beyond T-shirts. Earlier this summer, The Mountain launched “Mountain Home” a direct-to-consumer collection of goods for home and everyday use featuring the designs and artwork that have attracted legions of fans around the world. Adding a wholesale channel for those products and making them available to gift shop retailers is the next step for The Mountain.

“We are an art company, really,” said Ballard. “We’ve got about two dozen artists we work with regularly and until recently that art was mostly going on T-shirts. But we know consumers want that art on other products. This fits a need we heard from our rabid global fans who are looking for avenues to express their passion beyond just apparel.”















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