Empire Skate & Snow are entering their 25th year as a powerhouse in the Canadian retail scene for all things board-related. To commemorate such a momentous anniversary, they linked up with Burton Snowboards for the 155 Empire Process. The board combines Burton's revolutionary technology with graphic elements inspired by the '87 Cruizer and the '95 Cruzin.
The super-limited board is now availabe for purchase at thinkempire.com.
To celebrate the exciting milestone for our friends at Empire, we reached out to Phil Grisé (one of Empire's founders), Todd Kohlman aka TK (Burton archivist), and William Laporte (Burton Area Manager, Western Quebec) with a few pointed questions to take us behind the scenes on this special release. In addition to some choice words from those involved, we're also happy to share a behind-the-scenes look at the board creation process as seen in Craig's Prototype Facility at the Burton HQ in Vermont. All photos shot by Julien Visse and provided by Empire.
When you look at this iconic Brushie Cruzer graphic, what's the first memory that comes to mind?
TK: I think of Brushie’s video part in Helter Skelter, style!!
Phil: Seeing Brushie bust a huge backside crail grab in a pipe way over my head. I believe it might have been the Stratton US open. This was a while ago… he was just doing it with so much style and grace and no one was doing that trick the way he was at the time…
What does it mean to you to be able to re-issue a legendary board, but bring it into the present with top-of-the-line construction and technology?
Phil: Getting to collaborate with Burton on this was an unbelievable opportunity. It’s sort of like getting the opportunity to collaborate with the “Ferrari” of snowboarding. Doesn’t really get better than that! Getting to produce a very limited quantity board using top-tier technology combined with one of the most iconic board graphics of all time is beyond what we thought possible. But the Burton team and our people put their minds to it and made it happen. I’m incredibly grateful for this!
TK: It’s cool to bring back such an iconic graphic on a board everyone can enjoy and have fun on.
When approaching this project, how did you end up landing on the Brushie Cruzer graphic?
Will: Digging through Burton's archive, we found the Cruzer and because it’s been an integral part of Burton's history and endorsed by iconic riders through the years, it was a no-brainer to move forward with this graphic.
Phil: We researched all the boards graphics that Burton had done going back to the 80’s. We literally looked at hundreds of designs. But one specific Burton rider throughout the years really influenced me, and that was Brushie. So, after discussing how Brushie changed the game and how important he was to me and that era of snowboarding, we open the conversation with Burton to see what was possible! We did switch things up a little… We used the top sheet as it was with a few minor adaptations to highlight the EMPIRE and Burton collaboration but we ended up swapping Brushie’s original iconic graffiti base graphic for the even older iconic Burton Cruizer graphic, which also shared a very similar top sheet as the Brushie. So this board pays homage to Brushie but also Burton’s early days or the 80’s when snowboarding really started getting more interest and attention!
How significant is 25 years in the game as a core snowboard retailer?
Phil: It’s quite the benchmark! Having spent all those years working with such amazing people who are passionate about snowboarding and skateboarding, having serviced all the great customers and friends, having hosted some of the best events in the world such as the Shakedown and Empire Games was and still is a blessing and a dream come true! Even though our store size and numbers have grown with time, we still stay focused on our core values and never really branched out from what we’ve been since day one back in August of 99!
TK: A core snowboard retailer like Empire really carries the community, heart, and soul of snowboarding. Without them, we would lose so much awesome history.
What was it like working together, Empire and Burton, on such a significant anniversary board?
Will: It was exciting to bring the history, resources and performances of Burton with the passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of EMPIRE team to the same table. It was fun to organize the project, and had a blast in Burton HQ in Burlington creating the boards and content around that historic launch!
Phil: We have an incredible relationship with the people at Burton! Pierre, Evan, Will and Zach have become friends throughout the years and we share the same passion for the product and snowboarding in general. So working with them on the board was great. It took a lot of back and forth but Charles and Kris from our team spearheaded the project and made it happen! I could not be more grateful for all of this!
TK: It was awesome working with two passionate groups together. We spend a day filming together and it flew by.
A Canadian leader in retail, hosting one-of-a-kind events and supporting some of the best riders in the country. What can we expect from Empire over the next 25 years to come?
Phil: Constant evolution! We pride ourselves in staying true to our core values but also strive to innovate in all aspects of the business. So we will always mix things up by challenging ourselves to be better! The retail game will always evolve through time and we will focus our energy on being at the forefront of world’s best snowboard and skateboard retailers while continuing to support riders and events the best we can!
We would like to take the time to say a HUGE THANKS to all the people who have supported our dream over the last 25 years! Whether you are a customer, a rider, an employee or even a hater, we love and appreciate you all! It’s been a true honour sharing our passion with you all…
Shoutout to Phil, TK, and Will for their time and effort to share some choice words with us. Special thank you to everyone at both the Empire Skate & Snow and Burton Snowboards camp for their cooperation. Stay up to date with them both on Instagram at @thinkempire and @burtonsnowboards.