That phrase—“my friend”—is one of the ways you know that you have made an impact on people’s lives. How many people say it are a measure of that impact. And so, by that metric, Derrick Bohn of Knives Ship Free, had a huge impact on the knife community. He took to YouTube with a zeal that is hard to match. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was a Bark River fanboy and not the owner of one of the best places on the web to buy knives. He embraced podcasting early on, visiting Gear Geeks Live twice, the Knife Journal Podcast once, and Modern Neanderthal once. Then, once a week, Derrick sent me an email that told me all about his favorite new knives, what was happening with him and his family, and every once in a while, offered me something free. Oh wait, that was a promotional email? Everyone got one like it?
That was Derrick’s key to success—he talked to people and made a connection. He was smart and insightful, so smart and insightful that he knew that speaking to people plainly and directly was more powerful that using $5 words. I always appreciated his discussion of the knife business in general. he was the first person to explain to me why Amazon was so bad for the little guys. He also did an excellent job not just with me, but with anyone who would listen, why we shouldn’t buy junk knives. He was a keen businessman, relaunching the Northwoods brand at just the right time and stoking the fires of a traditional knife revival.
But lots of people are good businessmen. Derrick stood apart from others by his humanity. He spoke often and with passion about helping others. Whether it was his plan to get knives into the hands of kids or his support of a forge in Africa that helped villagers not just improve their tools, but improve their lives—Derrick genuinely cared about people. No better proof could be found than in the people that worked for him. Its not often that people move across country for retail employment, but some of the original Oregon KSF folks did just that.
As many of you know by now Derrick passed away unexpectedly just as KSF was about relocate a second time in a handful of years. It is people like Derrick that make it clear to me that knives are really just a conceit, a well-intentioned fib, to allow us to meet each other and have something to bond over. Our community, and humanity as a whole, took a loss a few days ago. I hope that Wendy, Derrick’s wife, and his three daughters take inspiration from what a great man Derrick was in this time when their hearts are breaking. I hope that the core of people at KSF remember Derrick’s lesson in life—treat people fair and you will receive it in return. And I hope that people in the knife community remember that knives are awesome, as Derrick would tell us during a semi weekly YouTube video, but the people you meet talking about them are even better.
Go buy something from KSF. I am glad to have known you Derrick and I considered you a good friend.