Sam from Cyclingdivision.com approached us for a very nice interview. Thanks Sam and make sure you visit his cool new website!
Maats is a shop located in Amsterdam, which opened just around when we closed Meesterknecht. Run by two passionate guys who are all about clothing and the cycling community. Besides selling unique and niche brands of cycling clothing for men and women, they host rides, have events and are always down for a chat with their fellow cyclist or customer. The shop is relatively small and quirky and reminds me a lot of my previous shop Pristine Fixed Gear. Split level, back/white mural drawing (like the Mike Giant we use to have) and of course all passionate about what they are doing.
As from my own experience, it’s difficult for startups, and entrepreneurs like these guys, to get something up and running and therefore like to focus on them, not only because it’s ‘just a start-up’ but because they deserve it. It’s a great initiative and bold move in this competitive market.
∴ First off, please introduce yourself (name and age), where you’re from, is Maats a full-time job?
Joost: Maats Cycling Culture is founded by Rob Schoof and myself, Joost Hiemstra. We’re both in our early thirties and we grew up in a town just south of Amsterdam, called Mijdrecht. Both of us moved here about 10 years ago to study and enjoy all the great things this beautiful city has to offer. After his study, Rob worked mainly at Grapedistrict, a very cool wine shop. He enjoyed his job as he had a nice managing position at that company. Regarding myself, I moved to Auckland, New Zealand for a short while after finishing my degree. I worked in a wine shop over there but I kind of missed my family and the culture of Amsterdam so I came back to pick up my old job as a chef before kicking off Maats. Both of us have a very big interest in food and wine and that is a big foundation of our friendship.
∴ Can you please explain what Maats means and what Maats is all about?
Rob: The idea of Maats was born in the French Alps, near Alp D’huez. Me and Joost were participating in this Gran Fondo called The Vaujany.
As we are not particularly on the level of World Tour climbers you can imagine people rushing us by all the time so we had plenty of time to talk about what we were going to chuck on the BBQ that evening and which wine we needed to combine with that. Even though we can talk for hours about this topic, the suffering started to kick in after some hours. At that point, we were silencing up and during our afterparty that evening we were chatting about how both of us just clearly noticed how we could categorize two groups of cyclists. The first one not really being conscious of their apparel, and the second group looking on point though all basically wearing the same brand. When we came home we started to do some research about alternative brands and it seemed there was a whole world of awesome stuff out there. All sorts of cool and quality kits with their own unique identity. We wondered why we didn’t see these brands more often on the road but it got clear to us there are some a big obstacles to actually ordering those brands online. First you have shipping fee (unless you order a lot), second, there is shipping time which can last quite long coming from another country. Third, import tax if you’re ordering from a non-EU-brand. Fourth, no opportunity to feel, touch and fit the apparel. So and Joost got the idea of creating a place to take away these worries, offering awesome brands to the Dutch cyclists that were really hard to get your hands on before. So long story short, we contacted these brands and pretty much all of them were keen to be sold in a cool store in Amsterdam. So we decided to give it a go
We’ve been asked a lot about the name Maats and it derives from the ploegmaats, which is a word that is used in cycling culture for teammates. Joost and I are Maats but we also want you to be a Maat of us and the cycling community as a whole.
J: For us, cycling is not only about going as fast as possible. We are more into the whole lifestyle vibe: The apparel that you wear, the coffee stops, the banter with your cycling mates and the beers after the ride are just as big part of the experience as actually sitting on your saddle, grinding the pedals. We are not having a clever marketing strategy or whatever, we just want to have fun and share that with other fellow cyclists. For us, that is what Maats is about: Enjoying life on and off the bike.
R: When we began there already was a big cycling community present that has grown up with Pristine and later Meesterknecht. We are really lucky that these two shops have existed as they paved the way for a concept like ours. We love to be thé independent store in Amsterdam where the cycling minded community feels welcome to after these two cycling shops that unfortunately don’t exist anymore.
∴ Why did you guys open up a shop? Did you always dream of having your own store? Since you are an online shop as well.
J: I never really had a concrete dream about owning my own store or anything and neither did Rob. We know it’s hard for cyclists to get their hands on cool brands without all the struggles mentioned above, so we really believe in a physical place. At the same time, we are really aware we can’t do it without a proper online shop to reach more customers as its really hard to keep your head above the water in this industry.
∴ The shop is located outside of the center of Amsterdam, is there a reason for this and why pick this location?J: We like to be in a location that is not in the center of the city but on a place from which its easy to depart on a ride in the countryside. We actually used Strava to analyse where most cycling traffic around Amsterdam was passing by and this location happened to be in one of those hotspots. Although we are very keen and willing to build something solid with Maats we bumped into this temporary pop-up location so we decided to give it a trial period of 6 months first.
– When your lease ends, what’s your plan? Or are you already busy with the next ‘step’?
R: This trial period that Joost is talking about has been a huge success. The cycling community really seems to find us and we are so happy with that. Although we know that we have just made a small step we are looking forward to taking Maats to a next step and a new location. We haven’t made up our mind on the details of this next step but we do know that we are going to proceed with Maats for sure.
∴ Which brands do you sell in your shop and what are your favorites?
R: We sell a diverse range of brands: Isadore Apparel, Paria, Endless, Warsaw, MAAP, Pedla, Fingerscrossed Design. All of these brands cover their own niche within our niche so we love all of them for being unique. Alongside these brands we have started our own Maats apparel brand which we want to expand in the coming years. We are working together with a friend who is a great designer and also a cyclist herself so she knows what works and what not.
∴ How is business since you opened? Are there any plans on expanding in any form (coffee please!)?
R: Business is going really well so we are over the moon with that. Its always a big gamble to start something like this but until now things are going smooth. (fingers crossed…) We would love to expand as mentioned above though we are still deliberating on how and where. We hope that we are able to communicate this very soon through social media. And the question is asked to us before regarding coffee, all I can say is that we like coffee as much as you do…
∴ You host (almost weekly) events, can you tell us something about these events and why you have them?
J: We have a bi-weekly Maats Social ride where our roadcaptain, Robbert Zuidervaart, leads a group of people on a nice ride through Amsterdam’s beautiful surroundings. Also, we host events about all topics related to cycling, ranging from a workshop on cycling photography to BBQs with a local craft beer brewery. We just really like to bring people together to share their passion and to build a community with that. There is this very nice thing about cycling that it can bring people together from a completely different background, it seems a great place to really get to know someone in a chilled way.
∴ Where do you see yourself and Maats in three years?
J: We would love to have a permanent and bigger location somewhere in Amsterdam with a bit more focus on great coffee and good food. The store would be a bigger and better version of the current one. Alongside what we have, we hope to have expanded our own clothing line a bit and extend the range of designs to develop to a proper established Amsterdam based apparel brand.
∴ Final words or anything to add?
R: Great to see initiatives like these! We would love to welcome you and the visitors of your website to our store for a nice chat or a ride!
Thank you guys for your time and this interview giving us and our follower a better insight what drives Maats and what your guys are all about. We wish you all the best and we’ll be joining your rides for sure!
For more details on Maats (www.maats.cc) or visit the hotspot here.