Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sorry folks...

Been bogged down at the fire department...108 hours in 6 days.  Got to come home today, but honestly, felt really crappy and only got some unpacking and web updates done.  I'll be back in the shop Sat through Tuesday, and will catch up on email/voicemail at the front end of that time.

Big changes are taking place at the State level with regard to public employees...moral is crappy, economic changes are forthcoming, and it has me remapping my future with regard to early retirement and only doing one full time job :)

Hope y'all are living life to the fullest this week,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tidbits of info...

A few tidbits of info that may interest my frame building brethren out there, the rest of you may find these ramblings a distraction if not uninteresting.

Business Insurance -

Every year, my insurance comes up for renewal right around show time, kinda a pain when my focus is elsewhere, but it drives home the reality that this is not just all geeking out on bikes, it's a business.

From the start, I worked really hard to find a local representative for my insurance needs.  Sure, Lora Van Dixhorn and NIPC has a set program to offer, but I like to keep the money local if possible, and have someone I can look in the face when signing papers or if I have an issue.  Linda from Whitaker Myers Insurance is my Huckleberry. 

A pleasant surprise took place this year when my policy came up for renewal.  To this date nationally, only high risk insurance carriers would handle frame builders and the potential liability risk this small segment represents.  Linda informed me that this year our manufacturing segment achieved recognition as a solid business model with manageable risk numbers, opening the door to larger, recognized companies assuming insurance policies.  What does that mean to me?  Well, I got better coverage for the same money from a solid nationally recognized carrier.  More importantly, it reaffirms that our niche in manufacturing is growing, providing solid products, and is being acknowledged as a dependable business model.  Good job guys.

Dillsburg Aeroplane works -

Anybody who has built frames or accessory components in the last 30 years has probably had the opportunity to deal with Charles Vogelsong and his family business.  Operating out of a property in rural PA with multiple buildings/chicken coops, Charles has been providing 4130 chromoly and aluminum products to thousands of pro builders and hobbyists.  Charles, while normally very abrupt and business like, is a lot of fun to chat with once you get him derailed and talking.  Just before the show, I had one of these rare moments.  Charles shared a few facts about himself that I thought I'd pass on to help those who still order from him know the voice on the other end of the phone a bit better.

Charles recently celebrated his 93rd birthday, and although he does not work the same hours he has in the past, is part of Dillsburgs business operations daily.

He served our country by flying with the Air Force in WW2, and until just three years ago, enjoyed flying his own fleet of single engine aircraft.

When asked about retiring, he said he's thought about it, but he did not reckon he'd retire as long as he could still walk to work.

Show expenses...

What's it cost to attend a show like NAHBS?  As part of my post show round up, I have to track all my expenses and account for costs.  Just as a quick view, this is what it took for me to attend this year:

Booth space - 850.00
Airfare - 481.60
Hotel - 593.40
Rental car - 356.73
Food - 146.72
Parking- 49.50
Parts (forgot a stem and cable guide, oops) - 42.50
Gasoline - 20.50
Shipping (booth, two bikes, box o' bars/cranks/tees) - 697.62

Total expenses - 3238.07

I recovered some of my expenses through product sales, but for a small operation, it is still a significant marketing outlay.  I'm fortunate that so many fine publications took time to speak with me and take photos of the bikes.  If y'all see something posted in print or web, please let me know.  Nice to see if the dollars spent actually result in some press :)

Shop happenings...

Anyhoo, working on cleaning up the shop post show.  I powdered Don's frame and Eric's Hot Rods and got both of those packaged up.  Don's frame shipped out without a pic (darnit) but is a lovely bright purple, sure not to be missed in the forests of the Catskills.

A quick pic of Eric's Hot Rods, in glossy black powder coat, fresh outa the oven...

Gonna have shots of Chad's TCU paint coming up in the next few days...was really hoping to have it at the show but just plain ran out of time.  I wanted to insure it was the quality we both desired, rather than getting it done just to have it there.  Was a hard decision to make, as I knew it would disappoint Chad, but I'd rather it be just right, than just done.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nahbs 2011, Austin

I'll be honest, it was really tough getting ready to go to the show this year; with building the new space, moving in, and still working out of boxes, the deadline was an unforgiving mistress. Despite the hurdles, making it there is a priority as I really want to continue to support the growth and sharing of this small niche of industry.  It's not about sales or exposure (although when it happens it's nice), but instead the opportunity to meet some really great folks whose lives you have touched with what you fabricate, sharing of knowledge with those who strive to be in your shoes some day, and to socially embrace fellow builders...each of us toiling away solitary all year with this one chance to chat and smile face to face.  Yep, that's why the pain of preparation is worth it.

The week before the show I pushed with everything I had, the last four days being bitterly cruel, as everything in the booth was fabricated during this time.  The last 14 hours, Kalten and Christi stayed up with me to help finish, pulling the last frame out of paint and packing it up around 0400 Thursday morning, half and hour before we left for the airport.  I hung on to my resistance to caffine until the final night, when I drank about half of this little guy...
In a flurry, we packed up all the stuff and ran outside to find freezing rain had coated everything...ughh, gonna be tough to race an hour to the airport in this, yikes!  With some careful negotiating, we made it to the check in desk an hour before our departure, just enough time to get all the bikes on the plane, I thought.  TSA was a PITA.  They had to open each bike case, unwrap the packing on the bikes, and take them out to insure we were not smuggling any explosives, small children, or drugs with us...bitchin the whole time about how we should just rent a bike when we get to Austin so they don't have to deal with this "hassle".  The airline was smiling though, as they stuck us for almost 500 bucks in excess baggage fees...the cost of doing business when you wait til the last minute.

Once on the plane, some of the stress began to melt away but that darn Monster kept me from settling into a Goldilocks slumber...the physical cost of doing business when you wait til the last minute :)

Despite a mad search for our booth, which we shipped ahead of time, set up went very smoothly.  We were blessed to be next to good friends; Carl and Loretta from Strong Frames, Don and Matt from Anvil, and Tim and Grif from Shamrock just a caddy corner away.  We broght two bikes; a 650b Rohloff with internal cable routing, custom bar stem combo, box crown fork, Hot Rods, and Ti post, all painted in a lovely dino skin paint job that took just over 27 hours of work.  The second bike was a steel SS coupler road bike with SRAM Red components, custom unicrown fork, King/Mavic wheels, painted in a brushed aluminum with candy red/orange/yellow fades and airbrushed headbadges for a little contrast.

Pics courtesy of Justin at Dirt Rag, thanks guys...

and some crappy cell phone pics of the other :)

Friday and Saturday at the show were bustling, with nary a break in the action between folks stopping by.  I am very blessed to have so many cool customers who were able to come by and introduce themselves, it was a pleasure to press flesh and enjoy the conversation.  Sunday was fortunately an easier pace, as my lil leggies were beginning to ache from the long hours on the concrete and I did not have the benefit of partaking in the "pain reducer" liquid being dispersed across the aisle at the Anvil booth... they all seemed to be happy ;)

Word from the official Nahbs office is that this year set all kinds of records; most exhibitors, highest attendance, loudest parties on 6th street ;)

One of the disadvantages to displaying at the show is that I don't get much of an opportunity to walk around during show hours and see everything, so I captured a few images that really caught my eye that you probably won't see on the multitude of flickr pages.

I took a picture of this guys hand made ear art as he was taking a picture of Roy's bike...
This cool chick designed her own pants...
Watson Cycles makes each of their headbadges individually.  Word is that Grandpa carves them out of wax then they are cast in the shop for some stunning finished products; Medusa, Moby Dick, Squids, and this guy...
Some really retro panniers, all cordura and leather...
Some awesome kids books and matching socks...
I was even lucky enough to find Wade's long lost twin...Wade from Vulture on the right, Armond on the left...or is it the other way around :)
Fortunately, Mike Beauchamp (Wades daddyo) was present and was able to confirm that although they look alike, he's not responsible for Armond.

Outside of the show, the food was not as spectacular as Richmond (which may never be duplicated), but we did find some shining stars;

Round Rock's world famous donuts melt in your mouth...
if you can fit them in :)
Seriously though, the normal ones are much smaller and covered with a sumptuous orange glaze still warm from the fryer.  We brought 2 dozen back to the show to share...even Carl had one, though it took a brash verbal challenge to exert enough peer pressure on him to partake.  Don't worry Carl, I don't really believe you are a skinny lil bitch...nothing but love for ya man.

Another happy spot was Juan in a million, a short 2 mile walk though some economically challenged neighborhoods for a big payoff.  A bit of the local art on the way...
and the promised land...
with it's bounty; the Don Juan Grande Taco, a mixture of egg, potatoe, chorizo, and other good stuff
Stoked on the fuel from Juan, I macked in front of the camera for the local TV station, talking about the social/political environment of gas prices and alternative transportation.  Ashley did a fine job making me sound like I knew what I was talking about.  Thanks to Andy Klumb, one of the nicest bald headed machinists and Eriksen behind the scene guys you should meet, for the web link.

TV interview with YNN

A hearty thank you goes out to Melinda from Mellow Johnnies for arranging the home bound shipments, you are my angel.

A big congrats to Carl and Loretta for winning the best Carbon bicycle and to Kent Eriksen for best Ti, both deserved the validation for their efforts.

Looks like it's Sacremento next year.  For the first time in a while, I'm undecided on whether or not to attend.  Gonna let the sting wear off from this one for a week or so.  I think if I'm gonna do it, I'd like to get together with three other like minded folks who would be fun to hang with and do a co-operative island of bike fun.  If any of y'all are interested, let me know, would like to pull the trigger before April.

So long to good friends for another year,