This year, more than ever before, Outdoor Retailer felt like a huge, awesome reunion. I got to reconnect with the founders of several of the companies we feature on Garage Grown Gear. Each year I learn more about what motivates them, the nuances of their products and what life is like for them behind the scenes.
With these fine individuals I celebrated successes, like releasing new products, finding financing and getting attention from national media. I also sympathized with challenges. I heard story after story of manufacturing woes. It’s one thing to have an idea and totally another to bring it into this world. Huge props to the brands we work with for taking on such an enormous task.
What most struck me is how we’ve all grown up together. I’ve been meeting with the people who founded several of our partnering brands at Outdoor Retailer every winter and summer for two to three years. In that time we’ve seen our businesses sprout and start to blossom. And, we’ve also become friends.
Julie showed me a video on her iPhone of her house. Inventory is in one corner; the setup to waterproof the shoes is in another room; and the packing and shipping station is on the dining room table. Pakems is truly a homegrown business. Stay tuned for some cool new styles coming down the pipes.
Farm to Feet
Travis is the kind of person you wish you were neighbors with: friendly and easy going, and yet totally on top of the details. I always look forward to seeing him. Come to think of it, I always look forward to seeing everyone at the Farm to Feet booth, including Kerry, Kelly and Dave. This company, which is committed 110% to USA made, has some sweet new ski and adventure socks on the horizon. We’ll keep you in the loop as they become available.
This year Steve was showing off his prototype for Liquid Hardware’s new coffee lid, which of course includes the company’s signature magnetic, stick-to-anything metal properties. Liquid Hardware’s HQs is five minutes away from my house, so it definitely gets my vote as a local favorite.
Jim and his wife Susan took the reins of Nothern Lites in October. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him for the first time. Rest assured, this USA made snowshoe company known for its lightweight performance is in good hands.
This year I also finally got to meet Craig, the mastermind behind Bambool, which makes base layers from a blend of bamboo and merino wool. I’m super jazzed about the direction this company is growing: expanding beyond black into colors, a shirt style with a hood and a line of men’s boxers and women’s briefs.
Bill is one of those people who will get er dun, whatever it takes. When he couldn’t find a facility that would manufacture NW Alpine’s line of core climbing clothing, he set up his own facility in Oregon. This year he’s done a lot work for other brands to get the plant financially stable, but he promises to turn his attention back to building inventory for NW Alpine in the coming year.
JC is a self-described punk rocker who doesn’t mind a good suffer fest; think skiing solo across Yellowstone in subzero temps midwinter or trying his hand at the Tour Divide mountain biking race, a 2,745-mile traverse following the Great Divide (as seen in the photo above). He’s not afraid to speak his mind, but does it in such a good natured way, you can’t help but see his point of view. He lives in Ouray with his family, where he just opened a store front for Alpine Luddites. All of the companies packs and bags are made right there.
The Landmark Project
David and Matt are the sorts of honest fellas you’d want to grab a beer with, so that’s precisely what I did. I’m really excited about the tee shirt designs The Landmark Project is releasing this year featuring national parks, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Park Service.
Flowfold is a relatively new brand for Garage Grown Gear, and OR was our first opportunity to meet face to face. While talking with Nick and Charley I learned that this company, which makes wallets from sail cloth fabric, is literally located in a garage – more specifically the loft above a garage. Flowfold’s new totes and duffle bag are pretty rad; perfect for hauling around skiing or climbing gear.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear
(Photo courtesy of http://lizzyscully.blogspot.com/)
Lizzy has a magical energy, cultivated by years spent scaling big walls; she’s equal parts energetic and grounded. Hyperlite Mountain Gear is always pushing the envelope, and 2016 promises to be no exception, with packs and other accessories tailored for specific outdoor pursuits.
I briefly passed David, co-founder of Good To-Go on the escalator. I was headed up, he was headed down. We exchanged a hearty hello and warm smile, before whisking past each other. I would have circled back around to extend the greeting, if I wasn’t already way behind schedule for getting out the door and on the road back home. Farewell, Outdoor Retailer. This year was a good one.