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Eighteen Minutes With Dayton Boots CEO Stephen Encarnacao

Dominic Schaefer
Stephen Encarnacao, president and CEO of Vancouver's Dayton Boots | photo courtesy of Dominic Schaefer

Stephen Encarnacao has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancouver‘s Dayton Boots for the past 2 ½ years. Before taking the helm at Dayton, Mr. Encarnacao was Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer for Reebok International (during Reebok’s meteoric growth phase when Reebok grew from less than $50 Million in annual sales to nearly $1 Billion and usurping Nike’s position as the #1 Brand in the U.S Footwear Market). But even cooler than that is that he served as Senior Vice President Marketing at Converse and Chief Operating Officer at Puma USA. Impressive pedigree. But he’s here now, and here is what he has to say about life in Vancouver.

Scout Q&A

Three things about your neighborhood that make you want to live there: We have an apartment in the Dunbar Neighborhood (West Side) of Vancouver.  The trees, vegetation and scale that make it feel like a small New England or English town within a large international and cosmopolitan city like Vancouver; The closeness to the amazing University Endowment Lands; Dunbar Street neighborhood shops and restaurants that make Vancouver feel like we are part of a small town.

Book you’re reading: Eat the Rich, P. J. O’Rourke, a hilarious skewering of “the dismal science” of economics told with real world examples from one of America’s funniest and sharpest writers and cultural observers. Brooklyn, Colm Toibin, a simple, beautifully written novel about the immigrant experience in America told through the eyes of a young Irish woman who moves to a new life in Brooklyn, NY in the 1950’s.

The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: Italian cold cut submarines, heros, torpedos, grinders or Panini sandwiches from Bianchi Maria on East Hastings or the Grotto Del Fromaggio on Commercial Drive.

Default drink of choice: 1. Ice cold gin or vodka martini straight up with three olives. 2. An ice cold Sam Adams Lager or Granville Island Pale Ale. 3. Vancouver tap water on ice, some of the best tap water in North America. Vastly superior to the expensive bottle water crap sold in stores for a premium.

Drink you’ll never have again: Rum shots or rum and cokes.

The one place you’d move to: San Francisco.

Favourite wine varietal: Chardonnay.

A curious fact about Dayton that not everyone knows: We have met at least 12 people in the past two and half years who were named Dayton because their Moms and Dads were Dayton Wearers and Fans of the Brand.

The greatest thing about Dayton Boots is: The amazing reservoir of customer brand loyalty due to the quality and durability of the product. Daytons may not be the most fashionable footwear on the planet, but they are built to last and that they do!!.We have loyal customers who have been wearing the same pair of Daytons (resoled a few times) for over 40 years.

The person you can imitate: Mr. Fidalgo, my high school chemistry teacher.

One thing you’d like to change about Vancouver: Cost of Living and affordable housing. The cost of living for the average person living in the Lower Mainland is absurdly high and affordable housing is a major problem particularly for young people trying to get their start  and older people on a fixed income.  Sadly, the 2010 Olympics will only showcase the beauty  of British Columbia and exacerbate the problem by  increasing demand for housing, goods and services.

Cheap Vancouver place for dinner: La Bodega.

Last place traveled: Boston.

Biggest fear: A catastrophic or serious illness effecting the people I love.

First impression of Vancouver summed up in three words:  Absolutely stunning place.

Dead film actor you wish was still making pictures: David Janssen.

Best sneaker in the world: Converse’s “Chucks”, aka Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars.

Place in BC that you love escaping to: Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Under what circumstances would you join the army: If the enemy forces were marching on Stanley Park or Boston Harbor.

Best green space in Vancouver: Pacific Spirit Park in the University Endowment Lands.

Dumbest purchase ever: Leather Nehru Jacket, I bought and never, ever wore it. It just looked terrible. To this day, I have no idea why I bought it.

What are you proud of: My daughters, Laura and Lizzy who have grown up to be kind, wonderful, beautiful and intelligent young women which is much more of credit to them than to me.

The thing that makes you the angriest: Rudeness, intolerance and lack of civility to other human beings.

The thing you love most about your job: Seeing and feeling the joy, passion and loyalty our  customers feel for their Daytons. Hearing the stories of how Daytons have been a part of their lives and  their parents and grandparents lives.

Best Vancouver place for coffee: BeanTown Coffee House on Dunbar and Sweet Tooth at East Hastings and Nanaimo.

Your nickname(s) growing up: Stevie and Enco.

Talent you wish you possessed: Being able to sing. I am basically tone deaf. I just can’t carry a tune.

The trend you wish you never followed, but did: Investing in dot com stocks like BarnesAndNoble.com.

Musical instrument you long to play: Piano.

Sport you gave up: Rugby.

Politician you most admire: Abraham Lincoln.

The game you’re best at: Jeopardy.

Somewhere within an hour of Vancouver that is worth checking out: Lynn Canyon Park.

The number of fist fights you’ve been in: 5-6, most of which I regret.

The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: As a teenager, I worked summers as a lifeguard at the Cape Cod National Seashore on the North Atlantic.. One summer day two swimmers were caught in heavy surf and a very dangerous rip current about 300 meters from shore. As the first guard responding I was able to make it through some nasty, heavy surf. I spent almost 20 minutes barely supporting the two heavy, nearly drowning gentleman with just a torpedo buoy. At one point, I had to dive for one of the men who slipped off the buoy and had already turned blue. Thankfully my partners reached us in time and all lives were saved including my own…phew!

Three things of no value that you will keep until you die: Pictures of my children and the people I love, Wonderful memories of the people that have touched me in life, Ashes of our beloved family dog, Bailey a 140lb.Leonberger who passed away much too young.

Local person you admire most: David Beers, the editor of the Tyee.ca, He has done a wonderful job of building a great honest news website with some of the best journalists in the country doing what journalists should be doing: great reporting and writing consistently.

The Dayton should be worn by: Daytons are worn by people from all walks of life, from dock workers, truckers and bikers to supreme court justices, cabinet ministers and even a few movie stars but we fundamentally believe our customer base is anyone who believes in buying products that have long term value and appreciate wearing honest, authentic handcrafted quality boots born and built right here in East Vancouver for the past 63 years.

Best concert experience ever: Otis Redding Review, at the Leroy Theater in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Absolutely the most electric concert experience ever. The show included Patty LaBelle and Bluebelles, Percy Sledge, Sam and Dave and the Otis Redding Band, the Bar-Kays…and of course the incomparable Otis Redding. It was an amazing experience! I still get goose bumps thinking about it.

Aspect of your personality you wish you could change: Being occasionally quick tempered
The thing you wished people cared more about: Social justice, specifically:A more equitable distribution of wealth, full employment, healthcare, housing and education for all members of our society in Canada and America for starters followed by a greater commitment to social justice for the people of the Third World.

The dish you’re most proud of: My mother’s Portuguese Stuffing for Thanksgiving Turkey.  A recipe that totally outshines the turkey. It includes linguica, chourico, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, scallions etc – just an amazing taste treat.

The thing that makes you the most nervous: Driving in downtown Vancouver and Boston. Both places are filled with a generous supply of lunatic drivers and cyclists who could care less about their fellow drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. It’s total anarchy and chaos in the streets of both cities and totally frightening in the best of times.

Town you were born in: New Bedford, Massachusetts, America’s largest fishing port and the former whaling capital of the world.

Old television shows you can tolerate re-runs of: The Sopranos, The Wire, Harry O, Sex and the City, Seinfeld, Taxi.

First memory: Learning how to make butter with my Grandmother.

Quality you admire most in yourself: A healthy level of intellectual curiosity.

Album that first made you love music: Greatest Hits by The Byrds, one of the most underrated albums of all time.

Default junk food of choice: Cheeseburgers and fries.

The career path you considered but never followed: First, heading off to be a Navy fighter pilot then followed by medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon. Instead I became an economist and a marketer.  Go figure!

Your top 3 films of all time: Godfather I and II, Citizen Kane, Caddy Shack.

The first three things you do every morning: Roll over and hold my partner, kiss her and tell her I love her, make coffee, turn on Global television to watch Lynn, Steve and Mark and engage in the usual bathroom activities.

The thing you’re addicted to: HBO and TV sports (esp. Red Sox, New England Patriots and the Bruins).

Biggest hope: That my generation will wake up and do something about leaving this planet in a better place than we found it before it’s too late.

Luckiest moment of your life: Two days, July 22nd and Feb18th. On those days, both my children were born healthy, happy and hearty.

Favourite book as a child: Charlotte’s Web, Treasure Island.

Best Dayton look for women? The Rider, The Confederate and the 12” Sidekick.

The thing that surprises you most about Vancouver: It’s a pretty small town. The degrees of separation here seem to be limited to two to three, rather than six.

Favourite quote: From Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus to Cassius about seizing the moment,

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries….”.

What are you wearing on your feet right now? Double sole Dayton Black Beauty Classics.


This was the 56th interview of what will eventually amount to 500 profiles of people who have made life in BC that much more interesting. At the rate we’re going it’ll take three years, at which time we’ll probably just start shooting for 1,000.



There are 12 comments

  1. Have just recently started hearing about Dayton here in the ‘States. Look forward to hearing and seeing more as well as getting some product availability locally. Can’t beat longevity for value…sounds like they last forever! Heading to their web site now for more info.

  2. Love those Daytons. Can’t wait to see the company have a higher profile internationally.

  3. Too bad about the Leather Nehru Jacket — it would have gone great with your Daytons. Great article!

  4. Great answers Steve as always very insightful and thought provoking good luck with Dayton it is a great brand with a lot of tradition behind it

  5. Fantastic….. great to see someone from our humble roots become highly successful…. Fifty-nine years ago I lived in the third floor rabbit-run apartment owned by Stevie”s parents. Steve, the youngest of 3, lived downstairs on the second floor with his twin brothers who were my age. I still remember cousin Bobby, the grape vine, the bathroom in the hall, and playing marbles in the street. I moved away at 7, and never really knew what became of the three boys that lived downstairs. My husband works at Reebok, Canton, and forwarded this article to me. It’s great ……. far from Jouvette Street…….. Stevie, you’re a hometown hero!!!

  6. daytons i love em. but my last pair i had a problem with the leather curdling. is the quality of leather going down?

  7. I love my Daytons!!!!! Own a pair of Rebels, X-Boot and want a pair of Confederates too!!!!
    Glad the Head Office is only a few blocks from my house in East Van!!!!!

  8. There has been some major changes recently at Dayton Boots and not for the better; a new direction that in my opinion will be the end of Dayton Boots; prefab not custom built; focus on mass production not quality and some great staff have left; not a good sign for the future. Too bad; this was a great place to get custom boots.