Over the last 10 years, George Shantz has acquired almost 2,500 can coolers, while many were gifts from friends and family, he still figures he’s spent about $10,000 Canadian to amass this respectable lot, likely putting your own “collection” kept in a kitchen drawer to shame.
We first connected with him as a customer of ours, having posted and tagged to his Instagram feed a few koldies he’d purchased and imported to the Great White North. Obviously then, George was the first person we thought of when it was time to clear warehouse space here, contributing to his cause with 20 plus retro bevy insulators that we’d come up on. (These had included: New Kids On The Block tour merch to a random cantainer autographed by Tony Hawk to a wrinkly California Raisins one to, oddly enough, another from Enron — the OG poster child for corporate greed and corruption.)
Given the following interview with him, I’d suggest, they figuratively and literally found a good home, in their own 144 sq ft hermetically sealed room (just kidding).
Down in Australia they call them “Stubby Coolers”. What do you call them up there in Canada?
Seems like the name that most Canadians identify them by is koozie or cozy.
How long have you been collecting and what got you started?
I started collecting back in 2010. Koozies and beer sleeves had always been around growing up, but I didn't really fully appreciate them until one hot, summer day on the river while part of a river boat poker rally.
On this beautiful day in July, the sun was shining and hot as we reached a beautiful little forested campsite just past the final poker stop. This is where my life changed!
There were about five other boats that joined us in this little clearing, everyone was sitting in the shade, drinking beer and bullshitting. I noticed a guy from another boat that was using this cool red “Bud Camp” foam koozie. We started talking and he seemed like a great guy. As my limited beer left was starting to get warm … I asked him if he'd be interested in selling the koozie for $5.
“Nope. Not interested.”
We chatted a bit more but I was really eyeballing that sleeve. I offered him $10 …
“Not for sale.”
“Ok, here's the deal, $20 and, I'll give you one of my remaining beers?”
He reluctantly handed me over that majestic sleeve as I coughed up the cash and one of my last beers in the cooler. I don't know why I wanted it so bad, but it really seemed like something that I needed in my life. And I was now over the moon!
The foam fit my next beer perfectly. It truly was an aha moment! (He then reached into his bag and pulled out another koozie!)I remember you hit some kind of milestone and threw a big party. Tell me about that …
So this was about three years ago that I got the 1,000th koozie of the collection!
I had about 975 koozies in my collection on the day of the party. To get into the party you had to bring a koozie. Your koozie was tagged with your name and then wrapped in a paper bag and put in a box.
We started the drawing process! For every 5th koozie drawn, the person who entered that koozie won a prize. Prizes for koozie: 980, 985 … then we got to 999. The next koozie drawn would become koozie number 1,000 in the collection and whoever brought that koozie would win a Texas Mickey of Crown Royal and an iPad. The winner turned out to be my mother-in-law, Deb, and the koozie was the perfect piece for the collection. This koozie now sits in a box on its own shelf in the koozie room and gets used on some special occasions.
[Laughing] Now this is a tough question. I really like the way leather feels around a can. When I first started collecting, someone on Instagram messaged me and said that they wanted to make me a custom leather one. It showed up in the mail a couple months later with this amazing owl carved in it. Truly a masterpiece. As I look through my koozie room, every one has a story. I have a knitted koozie that was custom made and looks just like my dog.
I have one that is called the “Stubby Glove” which is actually just a neoprene glove with a slot in it. Pretty weird to use. Someone made me one out of an old sock that they added a little ribbon to.What’s in heavy use these days?
One of the criteria of my collection is that each koozie gets used. Recently, I have been getting more and more sent to mel, so it seems like each beer I have, I need to use a different koozie just to get through them all. It’s a tough job but I think I can handle it!Many of the graphic messages printed on these kinds of beverage insulators are of sarcastic. Do most of your family and friends not get their jokes?
It’s funny because it seems like half of the “funny” ones are printed overseas and maybe with a little bit of a language barrier. I’ll look at it and not get the joke. And then show it to my wife just to make sure that it just hadn’t gone over my head.Any cool, funny or wild stories around acquiring some of your collection?
My wife and I took a trip down to Australia in 2019 to tour around in a camper van for a month. Before we left, I was able to contact a stubby holder collector in Brisbane and arrange a meetup. He had over 14,000! We were able to tour his garage where he had most of them displayed. It was amazing!
I had brought down a bunch of koozies to trade him and was able to leave his place with over 100 new ones for my collection! We had to buy a couple extra luggage bags for the flight home just for koozies!What does your wife think of this interest/obsession?
I thinks she appreciates the happiness that koozies give me and is completely on board. Sometimes when we drive to a new town or are on vacation somewhere, heading out in search of a new koozie is a great excuse to go exploring new things. I have one room fully dedicated to koozies in the house and a couple other display cases around. I think the only thing she is worried about is them taking over the house.What size is the “koozie room”?
It’s about 144 square feet. I built layers of shelves around the whole room and displays in the middle. I am very close to being out of room now and I’m not sure what to do. Thinking maybe adding some more displays to the garage but we may need to get a bigger house!Do you ever buy, sell or trade these?
All of the above. There is a pretty cool koozie community online and on Instagram that has helped me to be able to trade my doubles for some new additions.You now have your own business around the product, right?
I officially launched my koozie company, Brewski Blazers, in 2019. I try to take all my favorite aspects of the koozies I collect and make them into new designs and styles. We have been going to farmers markets and events so far and are really excited to get into some festivals and Beerfests in the near future.How old were you when you had your first beer? Follow-up question: First shotgun?
I’m thinking I was 16-ish. Pretty sure that was quickly followed by my first shotgun!As part of the British Commonwealth, I assume you and your mates are partial to warm beer. Am I right?
I could never get into the warm beer lifestyle. Cold beer — always!What’s your favorite John Candy movie? (I like the one where he says, “ … Canadian beer sucks!”)
Such a Canadian Legend! His best movie for sure was The Great Outdoors.What are you drinking these days?
In Alberta, craft beer has really been exploding! So I have been exploring a lot of new styles. I also like to buy anything that’s on sale. And actually, I just got my first beer sponsor which I am super excited about and will be announcing soon!
How much is a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon cost these days in Alberta?
I was at the liquor store today and a 15-pack of PBR was on sale for $26 Canadian. The Americans definitely are better at pricing beer!