A quick word on Jiro supply from Strata

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Smashmasta

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Hi everyone, Evan here. I wanted to make a quick post about Strata’s supply regarding Jiro knives in an effort to be transparent about some hard lessons I have learned recently and to avoid any misunderstandings and misconceptions about the fact that Strata is taking a step back from working with Jiro-san. We have been carrying Jiro-san’s knives since day one when he launched his line with Hitohira nearly 2 years ago. We have been and are still HUGE supporters of him and his work; he is truly something special. However, we will be pivoting a bit on our product selection and pausing our relationship with Jiro-san for the foreseeable future.

It makes us so heartbroken to share this news, but the reason for this pause in our relationship is because of some mistakes we made that we are reflecting on and working to better incorporate into our mindsets and business.

I put up an IG post (now offline) a couple weeks ago where I showed a polishing job I did on a Jiro 270mm Gyuto. I was excited to show the results of some new polishing techniques I have been working for a growing number of customers who have been asking about what a Jiro knife looks like with a more thorough polish. I wrote a couple paragraphs describing Jiro knives and my thoughts on how amazing Jiro-san is as a craftsman. I have also written longer comments on previous IG posts with Jiro knives, all in my mind in an effort to convey my excitement about and respect for his work.

With some help from Hitohira, we now understand that there are several issues here:

  • First, I polished the knife before sale. Hindsight is 20/20 and it seems so obvious now that altering the knife before it was sold, and thus changing the product from what the maker intended, did not come off like a celebration of the product and its expert construction as I had hoped, but rather disrespectful or damaging to the product. While the polish was nice and a number of people have sent their Jiro knives in for polishing, it is not my place to alter anything on a product that has not been sold regardless of my or other people’s interests to do so. The product is as it was intended to be by the craftsperson(s) that made it. If the end-user/owner would like something done to the product, then I am at their disposal, but my services are not to be utilized before such requests. My sincere apologies to Jiro-san for changing the product he worked so hard to produce in the manner he wanted to produce it.

  • Additionally, I did not increase the price of the knife given the services put into it. This was not not fair to the other retailers who sell Jiro knives, as it could be seen as if I was effectively undercutting their prices by ‘adding’ to a knife in a line that they sell without adjusting the price accordingly. My apologies to the other retailers who may have been troubled by this.

  • Finally, the other lesson we learned is that even if you convey your excitement in a positive way, the words and tone you use may simply not be what the craftsperson may want when their work is represented. The long and descriptive IG posts I put up were framed in my particular Western mindset with little thought to how they may be perceived by the craftsmen (and others) whose work I was representing and describing. Basically, even if your words and actions are positive in your mind, that may not be the case for everyone.

Knowing that my words and actions here affected anyone, especially someone I hold in such high regard is... heart-breaking, especially since I did so in what I thought at the time was going to be something positive. Moving forward you will see more neutral posts and absolutely no work on products before sale, and if there is somehow an extremely rare occasion where work before sale would be acceptable, the cost of the product will be adjusted accordingly.

In the meantime, as I said, we are huge supporters of Jiro-san’s work so please see the other really awesome retailers around the world who carry Jiro knives so you can continue to support them and Jiro-san, here.

I hope everyone reading this will understand that Strata’s growing reputation for quality services, products, and customer and maker/vendor relationships will only improve because of this; the lessons we learn are what help push us forward. We are still a young business with growing pains but we learn and improve more everyday. Thank you to those who have supported us and continue to support us, and thank you to those who have and will continue to support Jiro-san.

It is difficult for me to find time to be on KKF with running a growing business (I don’t know how Jon does it, haha), but I will do my best to respond to any comments or messages you may have here, but you can always reach me at info@strataportland.com or DM me on IG, @strataportland; I certainly miss interacting directly with the community at large in such a supporting place. I am always open to constructive criticism whether you have been a customer or not, but please keep them constructive as it is already difficult enough to have to convey the error of one’s ways and the effects of such in a public forum, and I hope all of you can understand and respect that.

We have a lot of new exciting and very limited stuff coming in the next few months to fill this sudden product gap, so stay tuned for that. I hope everyone is well and healthy during these strange times. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, I am always happy to talk knives and stones.

Respectfully,
Evan and the Strata Squad
 

copacetic

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As a previous satisfied customer of Strata, I believe they act with integrity, enthusiasm, and transparency as regards their trade. Every business goes through a learning curve on the way to success.
I've always held true the maxim that "the man that never made a mistake, never made anything."
 

Carlo

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Alas.
I suspect that most of us on the consumer end will forgive you.

I look forward to stopping in the next time I’m passing through Portland -what ever selection you have on offer.
 

tcmx3

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hmm, it's disappointing this was the resolution.

I cant say I 100% understand, but Ill try not to let this bias me against anyone. I know perspectives differ and all that and since you're still willing to point other people towards where they can buy a Jiro it's clear that there's no enmity on Strata's side which frankly I think speaks pretty well towards Strata.
 

Todd762

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Actually I saw your post on IG of the knife and was stunned by your work. The knife was sold so I sourced a Jiro on the BST here because there were no others to be found in stock. Essentially your post made me seek one out.

I don’t think what you did was wrong and hopefully they didn’t pull the line from you as a result of an honest mistake/enthusiastic support. Your response to the situation is uncommon and I’ll purchase from you in the future just based on how your handling this.
 

Pointless1

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Your enthusiasm for the craft shone through in our email comms. Sucks that this was the end result, and that feelings were hurt. Even though their knives seem to sell themselves these days, I’ll still say it’s their loss because they lose a good salesman who loves what he sells.
Just $.02 from “the old yankee bone.”
 

timebard

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I find it hard to see much blameworthiness in trying to offer the best product you can to your customers, nor in offering a better value proposition (to some buyers anyway) than your competitors. But as someone looking on from the outside without much insight into the ins and outs of Japanese knife production, this statement shows a lot of respect and transparency that reflects well on you. Best of luck moving forward.
 

DavidPF

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I think I can kind of see why each of you acted as you did, and I don't blame either of you. I sincerely hope that neither of you ends up holding this incident against the other person, though I know it may be difficult on both sides to avoid that.

A good jazz improviser once told me that when you're improvising there's no such thing as a wrong note; every note becomes the right one as soon as you know what needs to happen next after you've played it. It seems to me like you are doing everything you can to take the best next steps, and I admire you for that.
 

nexus1935

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I could see how a craftsman would want their end products to arrive in the hands of end consumers as they intended. The situation here sounds like an honest mistake, particularly in having the enthusiasm for these knives. Wished it could have ended with a lesson learned, but without damaging the relationship. Kudos to Evan for being upfront here with the forum.

My experiences with Strata have always been top notch, and wouldn't hesitate to shop with them again.
 

RockyBasel

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I have bought knives from STRATA and the experience has been amazing. I did not know this would be such an issue. I actually bought 270 Yo Jiro in question here. . I have not had a chance to post it, because I was busy, but the knife is stunning - see pic below - happens to be within reach as I write this. But I also completely respect Jiro-san’s perspective and wishes on this as well. He is the maker after all

I truly appreciate the humility with which Strata acknowledged this

5AB4515D-C6CC-47DB-ACA6-89ED3ECB7A5E.jpeg
6BD992EC-E607-4983-B83E-82BD5870A4D3.jpeg
 

Alder26

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Evan is an A plus dude, and Strata's customer service is only going to keep people coming back and buying more knives from them. Bummer to hear you might have biffed it regarding some cultural customs but in the long run Jiro's knives will be served well in your shop so hopefully they start selling through Strata again.
 

Bear

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Evan's always treated me well, he's very easy to work with and extremely accommodating.

I have bought knives from STRATA and the experience has been amazing. I did not know this would be such an issue. I actually bought 270 Yo Jiro in question here. . I have not had a chance to post it, because I was busy, but the knife is stunning - see pic below - happens to be within reach as I write this. But I also completely respect Jiro-san’s perspective and wishes on this as well. He is the maker after all

I truly appreciate the humility with which Strata acknowledged this

View attachment 116410View attachment 116411

So Evan did the work before you paid him for the knife?
 

esoo

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This is interesting discussion in supply chain.

If Strata has paid Hitohira for the knife, it is their knife to do what they want with it before selling it (albeit I would say with disclosure). If they want to polish it before sale, it is really no one else's business as the knife is in Strata's possession and fully paid for. And the price it is sold at is a Strata choice as well

As well, once a craftsman has sold the knife out of his shop to a retailer, it really is not his knife anymore to control what happens to it.

But with those things said, a craftsman has an option to whom they sell, so if they don't like what a retailer has done, they can stop selling to them, or push them to stop dealing with a retailer down the chain.

Similarly, if another retailer doesn't like the price Strata is selling at, they can pressure Hitohira to not sell to Strata which can be damaging to the business. And reviewing a number of well known vendors, a lot of stock flows through the hands of Hitohira world wide.

In the end, if the knife was paid for by Strata, there was technically nothing wrong done - it is Stata's knife, not Jiro's knife or Hitohira's knife. But Strata needs stock from that supply chain, It basically shows the power that Hitohira holds over a portion of the knife market.
 

choochoochop

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In my communications with Evan through email, he has always been very straightfoward about everything. It's unfortunate that a business relation has been soured like this. I get the impression that something like this is more on a case-by-case with different craftsmen. For example, the Morihei Hisamoto Fine Finish is essentially a "modified" TF that is sold for higher than its unmodified counterpart. As a consumer, I appreciate the efforts made by vendors such as Evan to provide me with the best available product. I do understand the concern from a craftsman who might want his work sold exactly as is, but find it hard to grasp why a misunderstanding such as this would spiral into the loss of a longstanding business opportunity with an excellent vendor.
 

RockyBasel

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I hope it will be a temporary punishment - it’s also a message to all others. And also, Jiro San has posted a heart felt letter on Hirohira on how he is polishing his 200+ numbered knives on natural stones and how it’s bringing new characteristics to his knives

That may have had something to do with the reaction
 

Corradobrit1

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This is interesting discussion in supply chain.

If Strata has paid Hitohira for the knife, it is their knife to do what they want with it before selling it (albeit I would say with disclosure). If they want to polish it before sale, it is really no one else's business as the knife is in Strata's possession and fully paid for. And the price it is sold at is a Strata choice as well

As well, once a craftsman has sold the knife out of his shop to a retailer, it really is not his knife anymore to control what happens to it.

But with those things said, a craftsman has an option to whom they sell, so if they don't like what a retailer has done, they can stop selling to them, or push them to stop dealing with a retailer down the chain.

Similarly, if another retailer doesn't like the price Strata is selling at, they can pressure Hitohira to not sell to Strata which can be damaging to the business. And reviewing a number of well known vendors, a lot of stock flows through the hands of Hitohira world wide.

In the end, if the knife was paid for by Strata, there was technically nothing wrong done - it is Stata's knife, not Jiro's knife or Hitohira's knife. But Strata needs stock from that supply chain, It basically shows the power that Hitohira holds over a portion of the knife market.
I think the commercial relationship is a little more complex and nuanced than how you describe it. Hitohira describes these 3rd party retailers as 'partners'. Hitohira seems to hold a lot more sway in any business dealings.
 
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AT5760

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The last time I was up in Portland, I had the chance to visit the shop and chat with Evan for a while. He was really pleasant and helpful. He had a ton of sharpening to do, but was more than happy to answer all of my questions and talk knives. I'm glad to see him being candid about this situation and hopefully it has no long term negative effects for Strata. Also, hoping I can find a way to stop in next time I'm out there.
 

Delat

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I have bought knives from STRATA and the experience has been amazing. I did not know this would be such an issue. I actually bought 270 Yo Jiro in question here. . I have not had a chance to post it, because I was busy, but the knife is stunning - see pic below - happens to be within reach as I write this. But I also completely respect Jiro-san’s perspective and wishes on this as well. He is the maker after all
I’m curious what sort of additional finishing Strata applied? From comparing your photo to shots on the Hirohito site, it appears the primary bevel finish is more even, the exposed core is more polished, and the Kurouchi looks lighter/softer? Beautiful knife for sure.
 

Koop

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Culture clash - occidental meets oriental. This illustrates the complexity of Japanese business relationships. There was a thread where Maksim and Jon Broida tried to explain some of the nuances and some people got their panties in a wad over it. To my western-mind, Strata did nothing wrong, but it obviously strained a relationship. I appreciate Evan coming forward and explaining what happened without making any excuses.
 

esoo

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I think the commercial relationship is a little more complex and nuanced than how you describe it. Hitohira describes these 3rd party retailers as 'partners'
At least in my part of the world - partner is just a polite way of saying selected retailer. The complexity is if you look at how much stock Strata carries that seems to come via Hitohira for Japanese products.
 

nakiriknaifuwaifu

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That's my impression. I can see why the maker and his agent would be miffed. But to cut ties completely after a single infraction seems OTT
The man has both his pinkies still, and his bowels are intact. Knowing how the Japanese about these things, it could be worse haha.

I've had very positive experiences purchasing from Strata and chatting with Evan as well. I'll continue to be their customer.
 

spaceconvoy

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This is interesting discussion in supply chain.

If Strata has paid Hitohira for the knife, it is their knife to do what they want with it before selling it (albeit I would say with disclosure). If they want to polish it before sale, it is really no one else's business as the knife is in Strata's possession and fully paid for. And the price it is sold at is a Strata choice as well

As well, once a craftsman has sold the knife out of his shop to a retailer, it really is not his knife anymore to control what happens to it.

But with those things said, a craftsman has an option to whom they sell, so if they don't like what a retailer has done, they can stop selling to them, or push them to stop dealing with a retailer down the chain.

Similarly, if another retailer doesn't like the price Strata is selling at, they can pressure Hitohira to not sell to Strata which can be damaging to the business. And reviewing a number of well known vendors, a lot of stock flows through the hands of Hitohira world wide.

In the end, if the knife was paid for by Strata, there was technically nothing wrong done - it is Stata's knife, not Jiro's knife or Hitohira's knife. But Strata needs stock from that supply chain, It basically shows the power that Hitohira holds over a portion of the knife market.
Thanks for being a voice of reason. Personally I disagree with those who are saying 'both sides made mistakes,' and I find the excuses about 'cultural differences' to be vaguely racist. You are absolutely right that if the stock has been fully paid for, it's the reseller's prerogative to sell it as they please. If Hitohira expected certain sales terms, they could have been easily spelled out in a signed agreement beforehand. I feel like this is silly prima donna behavior and will try not to give Hitohira my money in the future (unless there's a really nice replacement wa handle that no one else makes).
 

Corradobrit1

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At least in my part of the world - partner is just a polite way of saying selected retailer. The complexity is if you look at how much stock Strata carries that seems to come via Hitohira for Japanese products.
Agreed, it could be interpreted in different ways depending who is reading. Perhaps Evan can provide a little perspective, as he is the 'partner'. I'm sure a contract was signed and there were commitments from both parties as part of that arrangement. Purely guessing here as I'm an employee and not a business owner.

Strata sells a LOT of Hitohira sourced products incl stones and knives, but it seems its only Jiro's work that's affected. That to me is odd, if Hokuto is taking exception. Makes me think Jiro is the one who is pushing this embargo. To boycott Hitohira if thats the case is shortsighted.
 
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DavidPF

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To my western-mind, Strata did nothing wrong,
I think I'm about as western-minded as it gets, and I can easily identify with Mr. Jiro - after getting a reminder from him, at least. In more than one way, in fact.
One way is "What - my knives aren't good enough for you?". I'm sure Jiro doesn't see each individual knife as "his baby" the way people often do with a much larger project, but at the same time, he's certainly not just banging out commodity-type knives. If I sold you a painting I had done, I'd be right to be offended if you repainted parts of it or cut out parts you didn't like, even though it belongs to you now. And I probably wouldn't want to sell you another one if that happened.

Another way I can understand him is "I'm sure you did a good job, but I can't allow my reputation to rest on the skills of random people everywhere - if I let you modify my knives, then I'll have to let everyone else do it too."

AND a reminder that I already see the other side too - I'm not arguing against either person's point of view.
 

Giovanny Torres

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I think I'm about as western-minded as it gets, and I can easily identify with Mr. Jiro - after getting a reminder from him, at least. In more than one way, in fact.
One way is "What - my knives aren't good enough for you?". I'm sure Jiro doesn't see each individual knife as "his baby" the way people often do with a much larger project, but at the same time, he's certainly not just banging out commodity-type knives. If I sold you a painting I had done, I'd be right to be offended if you repainted parts of it or cut out parts you didn't like, even though it belongs to you now. And I probably wouldn't want to sell you another one if that happened.

Another way I can understand him is "I'm sure you did a good job, but I can't allow my reputation to rest on the skills of random people everywhere - if I let you modify my knives, then I'll have to let everyone else do it too."

AND a reminder that I already see the other side too - I'm not arguing against either person's point of view.
I agree completely with this comment, and calling Jiros behaviour premadonna is uncalled for IMO.
He sells a knife that is already with a nice polish, if a customer buys it and wants to go a step beyond they can ask for the service or do themselves if they wish, but a retailer just doing it for the heck of it I don't agree, Yes they paid for the product already but not for personal use, they bought it for resale and that is different.

What if after the work done on the knife it doesn't perform as intended and a review goes and bashes a product he spent a lot of time creating?
 
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