The Shoe Guys: Meet Derek Oland, owner of Moosehead Breweries and his 50 year old pair of Hartt Shoes
In The Shoe Guys, we bring you insight and experience from some of the most prominent figures in business, politics and beyond. We talk business, we talk style, we talk shoes. Derek Oland, Executive Chairman and Owner of Moosehead Breweries, is credited with turning a New Brunswick brewery into a world-wide brand. In this edition of The Shoe Guys we talk to Oland about his successes in business and the impact of style.
Back in ‘62, Moosehead Breweries didn’t have a large sales or marketing team. Why would they need one? Back then, New Brunswick’s prohibitory laws banned the consumption of alcohol at most establishments.
Enter a 22-year-old Derek Oland, a name that many Canadians and beer fans all over the world will recognize. Knowing that the province’s anti-beer laws were bound for liberalization, Oland jumped at the opportunity to create the sales and marketing infrastructure that opened up the Moosehead draught-beer floodgates, effectively positioning the independent brewery as the dominating force in the New Brunswick beer market and beyond.
Flash forward to 2018 and Moosehead, Canada's oldest independant brewery, is an iconic Canadian brand. The 151-year-old company is filling glasses across the country, the United States and the globe with maritime brewed and inspired suds.
Now in its sixth generation of Oland ownership, Moosehead runs a total of 9 independent brands including the crafty Hop City Brewing Company, the rustic Alpine Lager and a number of other brands that Canadians love.
Moosehead recently launched a rebranding of their company, marking the first time that their core brands have sported a unified identity. It’s a rebrand that simultaneously reflects Moosehead’s storied history as well as their bright future and vision.
Oland is now the Executive Chairman and Owner of Moosehead Breweries, a position he has held since 2006. Among other achievements, Oland is credited as being the driving force that fought for and achieved the successes — domestic and international — that Moosehead Breweries enjoys today.
“I want to hand the company to the next generation in better shape than when I got it. That’s one of my guiding principles,” said Oland from his home in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Throughout his career, Oland has had to negotiate and bargain with a revolving door of political actors, industry gatekeepers and trade diplomats.
When Oland was working to break Moosehead into the U.S. market, the U.S. Brewers Association used to invite importers to their annual general meetings. The rooms were full of executives, politicians and industry leaders.
“Those events were very important for me as a brewer,” said Oland. The stakes were high. Say the wrong thing to the right person and his business would feel the effects, make the right impression and Moosehead would have fewer roadblocks.
These events were frequently attended by the heads of the Miller Brewing Company, Anheuser-Busch and other beer powerhouses.
“We were working as a team there to tackle the issues that caused problems for the beer industry, that’s alcoholism and alcohol abuse,” said Oland. “It’s so important that the major issues of consumption are addressed. It’s not soda pop so you have to have programs to deal with those who abuse your product.”
Considering that Moosehead is now served throughout the United States – and at least 15 other countries – it’s safe to say that Oland made a good impression in the U.S.
In a similar venture, breaking into the European market, Oland and his fellow execs were surrounded by finely-tailored, British businesspeople.
“They are very well dressed there. They had suits that really fit them. If you go to an event in England, they take great pride in how they dress.”
From pocket square to socks, everything you wear in the world business — or politics — has an effect on the people and players that you meet. Every time you meet someone, they make a snap judgment based on visuals. Your hair, your clothes and your shoes all speak before you open your mouth.
“It’s very important to take advantage of your physique and wear clothes that emphasize the fact that you are a professional,” said Oland. “I think it’s very important that the shoes match what you’re wearing… You certainly don’t wear sandals with a suit. Shoes say a lot on their own and I admire Hartt shoes.”
Oland first encountered Hartt Shoes when he was a student. “I used to go in there (the Hartt Shoe Factory in Fredericton) and see them. It was a wonderful sight to see the shoes being made,” said Oland. “Hartt is an iconic New Brunswick Brand.”
His father, Philip Oland encouraged him to buy his first pair of Hartts.
“My father had them and he said ‘You should go get yourself a pair,’” said Oland. “I got a pair of black and a pair of brown… Whenever I have to get dressed up, I wear them and I wear them with pride… I’ve had them over 50 years now.”
Oland’s Hartt shoes are clean, toe-cap Oxfords, a vintage version of Hartt’s modern Beaverbrook Oxford. Just like all modern Hartt shoes, his half-century-old Oxfords are completely re-soleable thanks to their Goodyear-welt construction.
With a Moosehead rebrand launched and taking it's place in the limelight, Oland strolls leisurely around the Moosehead Brewery in Saint John, New Brunswick. His sons, Andrew and Patrick, are now at the helm. A successful transition underway.
Oland, joined by Hartt CEO, Andrew Bedford, pauses to chat with production supervisors, brewmasters, bottlers and shippers. Walking on the catwalk above his industrial bottling system he looks out over the factory. None of it was there when he started, not the brewery's expansion, not the conveyor belts, not the staff.
He built almost everything and his family is still building.