V Nives, commonly referred to as just “Nives,” is the first specialized knives store in Eatonville within recent history.
Beginning business in 2016, V Nives became incorporated in June, 2017, first selling to dealers and distributors online. Nives opened its flagship retail store at 107 Mashell Ave N. Eatonville, WA, on Feb. 4, 2019.
With $120,000 in revenue in less than a year, Nives’ Eatonville location has provided nearly ten thousand dollars in local sales tax.
After opening its doors in Eatonville, Nives opened a second retail branch in rural Libby, Montana, on Oct. 7, of last year. Nives is actively seeking to open a third retail store by April in Cody, Wyoming, and a fourth in Utah within the next year.
The local business’ plan is to market within rural towns whom lack large corporate conglomerates. In an interview with The Dispatch Newspaper, president and founder of V Nives, Mike Vellekamp said, “I will never put a store where there is a Walmart, Big 5, Sportsman’s Warehouse, etc.”
Vellekamp said that knife shops like his used to be much more common.
“There used to be a local knife shop in every town or there used to be a little old man at the hardware store ready to sharpen your knife for you,” he said “That doesn’t exist anymore. Now, when people want knives they go to Amazon or Walmart. All the mom and pop shops are gone.”
Knowing that the little guys were being pushed out of the market, Vellekamp said he used this knowledge to his advantage.
“I saw an opportunity in small rural towns where people use knives as an everyday way of life… who can come in and have their knives sharpened,” Vellekamp said. “Why go to the store and buy [something] cheap from Walmart when I can give you an affordable knife that I’ll service for life?”
Vellekamp hopes to build the community aspect of rural living. Vellekamp regularly pays local adolescents to sweep the sidewalk in front of his business and the Eatonville Nives location features a lounge with free water, soda, coffee, Wi-Fi and snacks. The store seeks to be a place that people can relax and build communal bonds.
“Some people come in several times without spending a dime. Friends meet up with each other to talk after school,” Vellekamp said.
Vellekamp also said he has plans to host wine tasting parties and other events at the Eatonville location in the near future.
Employee William Heffernan said that working at Nives has been the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
“We do really good here,” Heffernan said. “When the customers come in here, they are getting a quality product. It’s awesome. They keep coming back too and they sit down and they’re in a great mood and it’s just a very special place to be.”
Nives provides affordable options under $15 and high-line products at over $600. Nives offers various pocket knives, survival knives and cutlery. At over twenty-five blade designs and seventy-five variations for hilt style, materials and color, the company has a wide array of products to choose from.
Possible product materials include wood, carbon fiber, aircraft grade aluminum, titanium, phosphorous bronze, fiberglass reinforced nylon, and various grades of steel.
Nearly every product sold by Nives is designed and manufactured by them in house. Two specials have been designed by other American artists. Master Blade Smith, Wally Hayes, designed the “Vamp Dagger,” a doubled edged folding knife sold by Nives and Master Knifemaker Jerry Hossom, designed the “Deplorable,” a titanium folding knife with a finned shaped blade.
With each knife purchase, customers receive a warranty slip, free sharpening services for life and a free laser engraving on the blade. Included with each purchase is a toolset with extra screws, an injection molded, waterproof, container with a steel lanyard, and a picture of the team whom built the knife.
Products are built and assembled by factory teams in Taiwan, China, and in Puyallup.
Every knife dons the words “humanmade,” replacing the classic “made in country x, y, z”. “[This is] my idea of recognizing that one person or group of people isn’t better than another. It’s all great people making a product for the same brand.”
Vellekamp commented that traditionally when a product is made in China, companies use the smallest print available to stamp “made in China,” but when made in the U.S.A., companies stamp their product with the largest and most extravagant font possible.
“I know all the people who make our products. I visit them regularly. I recognize everyone that makes our products as talented and great,” Vellekamp said.
Nives provides prepaid lunch cards, hour long lunches, and healthcare to all its full-time employees.
Vellekamp brings with him 27 years of experience in the knife industry to his new brand. His journey began at 18 years old with Golden Manufacturing Inc. in Colorado.
During Vellekamp’s employment with Golden Manufacturing Inc., Spyderco bought up the company and Vellekamp stayed to learn everything about manufacturing knives. Vellekamp attributes much of his knowledge to Vince and Ronald Ford, partners of Golden Manufacturing Inc. whom stayed after the merge. By 30, Vellekamp had become the manufacturing manager for Spyderco.
After twelve and a half years, Vellekamp left Sypderco for a position with Blade Tech on the northwest coast. It was through Blade Tech that Vellekamp began designing knives. Vellekamp began selling knife designs to 511 Tactical through Blade Tech and eventually sold some designs to an Italian company called Fox.
Vellekamp and Fox formed a partnership and opened a Fox USA branch in Puyallup. The relationship eventually dissolved and Vellekamp, retaining the Fox USA factory from his 25 percent ownership of Fox USA, began his own company, Nives.
“I am passionate about making products that are good and help people,” he said.
Nives’ relishes in an untarnished record of zero returned knives since their inception.
Vellekamp said he challenges anyone to a better customer experience. He offers his expertise to his employees and his customers.
“We’ll show you how to sharpen and take care of your knife,” Vellekamp said. “We’ll give you a real personalized experience.”