Olek taking business to the next level

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This article was published 20/12/2016 (2112 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For Transcona’s Eric Olek, 2016 was a banner year. His clothing company, Friday Knights, was picked up by national retail chain Below the Belt, while Olek was named one of Ace Burpee’s Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans.

“This has probably been the biggest year for Friday Knights, ever,” said Olek. The 26-year-old started the streetwear company out of the trunk of a buddy’s car. Five years later, Friday Knights is nationwide.

But a Dec. 14 robbery of his Graham Avenue pop-up shop put a serious damper what would otherwise have been a celebratory holiday season for Olek. Thieves put a brick through the window of his shop, helping themselves to nearly $4,000 worth of merchandise.

Dec. 20, 2016 - Transcona's Eric Olek in Friday Knights streetwear's pop-up shop (433 Graham Ave.). On Dec. 14, someone broke into the shop through the front window, stealing $4,000 worth of merchandise. (SHELDON BIRNIE/CANSTAR/THE HERALD)

“Unfortunately, operating on a pop-up basis, I didn’t get insurance,” Olek said. The shop was opened at 433 Graham Ave. for the holiday season as part of CentreVenture’s PUSH program. “So it’s been a big setback.”

Entrenched as he is in Winnipeg’s hip-hop and creative community, Olek said he had offers from friends to throw a benefit concert and start a GoFundMe campaign to recoup his recent losses.

“I respectfully decline,” Olek said. “I don’t want to make this about me being a victim. When you become the victim of a robbery or a crime like that, it does take a toll. But if you want to move forward, you need to get out of that headspace.”

Instead, Friday Knights is rolling out a run of 70 limited edition hoodies which, if sold, will make up for the lost cash. As a way of giving back to the community, Olek added that $5 from each of the hoodies sold will be donated to inner city programming for youth.

“I don’t want young people to ever feel the need to steal for warmth,” Olek said. “They should have the best opportunities.”

In the spirit of moving forward, Olek is already laying ambitious plans for 2017.

“We’re looking to move forward with a (permanent) retail space, a whole creative hub, whether here or in another space,” Olek said. He sees the space as a place where creatives can get together, share some costs and push each other to new heights.

“Having one big space where people can work and network, with the shop and gallery upstairs and people creating downstairs, would give us a holistic approach to supporting the growth of the local urban community.”

At the same time, he’s hoping to take the pop-up shop approach full circle “on a whole other level.”

Dec. 20, 2016 - Transcona's Eric Olek in Friday Knights streetwear's pop-up shop (433 Graham Ave.). (SHELDON BIRNIE/CANSTAR/THE HERALD)

“I can hint at what that’ll look like,” he said, “but I won’t go into detail.”

And, of course, there’s the clothing.

“We’re continuing on wholesale manufcaturing collections for every season of the year,” he said.

Friday Knights kicks off the new year with a fashion show on opening night of the Winnipeg New Music Festival at the Centennial Concert Hall on Sat., Jan. 28, 2017. Visit fridayknights.ca for more information.

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Twitter: @heraldWPG

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at sheldon.birnie@canstarnews.com Call him at 204-697-7112

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