Dan Maynard grew up snowboarding in the A.M. and wake boarding each afternoon. A transplant to New York, the Zanerobe exec carved out a daily routine that maintains his high-energy lifestyle. We spoke to Dan about his philosophy on New York, old-school approach to business, and his impossible-seeming addiction to waking up before the crack of dawn.
Hey, mate. So start by telling us where you grew up.
I was born in Victoria, British Columbia, but was raised in a small town called Deep Cove in North Van. Amazing place to grow up, in the mountains, on the water. I grew up skiing, snowboarding, and wake-boarding every single day. We used to snowboard in the morning, golf nine holes, then wakeboard at night—the trifecta. –
How has your outdoor upbringing served you later in life?
Our door was always open, we’d go and fuck shit up and have fun and figure it out. It allowed you to figure out who you are as a person. It would be hard to grow up as kid now, because there’s so many influences that tell you who you should or should not be, whereas when we grew up we just became who we are. I think growing up in a small town really had an impact. Small towns can limit one’s ability because they can be so comfortable, but it opened my eyes.
Do you like a comfort zone or are you scouting for something new?
It’s a little bit of both. I’m a creature of habit—I need to get up in the morning and do my routine. No matter where I live I always try to find that routine, so if someone were to say, “OK, we need to open up a business in Paris,” then I’m open to it. But to do that I would have to have my routine as part of it.
Tell us about this routine…
Certain parts of the day I reserve for myself—it doesn’t matter how busy I am. I need the gym. I need to get up in the morning and do my meditation. Or that could be hopping on my bike, or boxing.
What are your mornings like?
A few months ago I quit drinking alcohol. I started waking up fresh, and that became my new addiction. I’ve always forced myself to get up but now I really enjoy it because I’m rested and inspired. It’s something about waking up with the world, or waking up before the world, seeing that sunrise and knowing for that small amount of time that you have control of your day.
There’s something about waking up early in New York, specifically…
When I first moved to NY, I was living in Bushwick and taking the J train in the morning. The J train can get pretty nasty, so I would wake up early because I wanted to wake up before the city. I found if I could get up before the city, then the flow of the day would be so much smoother. I understand my flow, whether it’s biking or taking the ferry or getting up at a certain time—it’s your own individual flow for the city and the day. Everyone has their own, mine just happens to be getting up at 5:30 in the morning and doing my routine.
What are you thinking about when you’re on the bike?
Nothing. When I first moved here I was having a tough time, but I remember one day hopping on the bike and riding for 6 hours. I was up by the GW bridge and I remember smiling, being like, “Fuck yeah, New York has so much to offer.” It’s about finding that rhythm. That was a defining moment for me. So when I’m on the bike I just zone out, because the city has so much energy and sometimes you want to enjoy your own energy for a second.
And when did you start boxing?
Eleven months ago. I thought I could fight but it put things into perspective, exposed me a little bit. So I had to learn. It’s the perfect outlet—for those three minutes that you’re in a round you can’t think of anything else. It’s complete focus, like a form of meditation.
Do you enjoy the routine or does it become a slog?
I don’t enjoy getting up at 5:30 in the morning and going to the gym and getting my ass handed to me—I don’t enjoy it by any means—but I know at the end of it I’ll feel like I accomplished something. I hate every single second of it but when it hurts, when you feel like you’re gonna give up and you can’t go another thirty seconds, that’s when it counts. I’ll continue to find ways to hurt myself to better myself.
Tell us about the ferry.
Growing up in Vancouver, being around water all the time, I felt that I was missing something. I just stumbled on the ferry, and I felt free for a second, more inspired in the city than I’d ever been. Feeling the fresh air, feeling the wind, and hearing the sound of a boat on water is something that I grew up on, so I fell in love with the ferry right away. And I realized it had to become part of my routine. It’s so calming, but you’re getting ready to go into battle.
Living in New York is definitely a battle.
When I’m on my bike on Sundays I’ll leave the area between 57th and 7th and Times Square, which is kinda quiet, and ride from there straight into Times Square. You’re watching this chaos come at you and all of a sudden you’re in the thick of it—there’s lights and people and the cowboy dude and there’s so much energy; it’s intoxicating. And then you get through it, and it’s clear on the other side. It’s like that’s my day, but in a condensed form.
How are you able to keep control of your vices in New York?
I always say a little regression makes you appreciate progression. It’s OK to dabble in your vices every once in awhile so long as they don’t consume you. I got here with a fairly clear mind but that said, it’s tough because you can feel very alone in this city, and when I found myself alone a lot, that was when I found myself dabbling into vices for the wrong reasons. I needed to start putting my spare time into something positive, find other methods of getting through it. Like boxing. It’s something that continues to challenge me, but we’re human; you need to be able to stumble a little bit.
On a different note, tell us about your business and how you maintain your success?
Ten years ago my brother and I started a distribution company in Canada called Noble Gentlemen Trading. I moved down to the U.S. to open up the Zanerobe USA business, and right now we have one of the strongest brand portfolios in the industry. But more importantly we continue to have fun. It’s a really hard industry—how do you stay relevant in an industry that’s completely owned by celebrity-ism and hype? But that challenge pushes us to be creative and learn from our mistakes. It’s the same thing as putting yourself in the boxing ring, hating every second of it but knowing, at the end it’s gonna be beneficial.
How have you managed to stay relevant?
I look at what’s happening right now and I don’t see longevity in the stuff that’s getting all the hype. Our customer base continues to grow and is extremely loyal. So how do we build on that momentum and give back? We’re fortunate to work with amazing artists, musicians, athletes, painters, and photographers—getting them involved and doing cool partnerships. We did a collaboration with TDE and Kendrick a few years ago. We have more in the pipe that should be fun and exciting.
Can you tell us how you started to work with Zanerobe?
At Noble Gentlemen Trading, we were finding international brands and bringing them to the Canadian market. But every time we gave the brands to someone else, they would ruin them. We found Zanerobe ten years ago and I remember looking at my brother and thinking we’re not letting anyone ruin this. We fell in love because this was during the Ed Hardy affliction of men’s fashion. I wrote Zanerobe an email, basically saying thank you for creating a brand that doesn’t have a skull on it. From there it became a really good friendship. We told them that we’re not set up as well as the other guys, but we’ll work hard and be passionate and communicate your story. I think with hard work and passion and dedication you’re bound to win, it’s just a matter of when. And that blossomed into an amazing partnership.