Block Bikes

News from the World of Block

The History of Block Bikes (Part 3)

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The where did you go era…
Have you ever wanted something so bad you are willing to put everything on the line for it. In poker it is called – All IN!
In real life it is called STUPIDITY! My blessing and savior through my adult life has been April.April

She is the voice of reason verses my live on the edge strategy. In 1995 Block Alternatives was running full blast. A real life sweatshop with 25 people working wide open manufacturing clothing, hockey and BMX accessories. SewingAreaBy 1998 things had slowed down and we entered a year of what I call damage control. I remember sitting at my desk with every bill spread out in front of me. The total due to suppliers, general bills, and taxes was a little over $120,000. How did we get here I was thinking to myself? This was 100% my doing, I had done this with my decisions. Simple math; payroll was 10K a month overhead was another 10K that alone is $20,000. Have a few slow months of industry changes, slow sales and complacency and you dig into a hole really fast. I got on the phone with everyone that we owed money to. Anyone else at that moment (with any sense) would have called it quits – bankrupt. Not me I have been unable to surrender my whole life. Probably not the best trait in this scenario but never the less I was going down with the ship!
PrintingAreaMy dad had always told me take care of local first no matter what. So that is what I did. All of our supplies cooperated and allowed us to make payments without cutting us off. We leaned out staff and actually moved a year later to a smaller more affordable unit. We took on outside contract work to pay bills and in reality that was the end of the Block Alternatives brand as we knew it. From that point on we focused on outside accounts and did our line as the secondary. It was unfortunate but necessary. You have to make decisions based on economics not passion when you get in that situation. We paid off every single account 100% in the next couple of years and redeemed ourselves in the industry. April went after outside accounts and we became busier by  the day. But that was only a fraction of the problems that had to be overcome.

I have always put 100% into whatever I am involved in. Some people exaggerate and say 110% but that is impossible. 100% is absolutely everything, that is my investment. There was a distinct day of change. I had been playing a lot of hockey and not riding bikes much. Wayne Croasdale built a mountain bike for me and brought it to the shop. I hadn’t really ridden bikes in the past two years but was pretty fit from hockey which crosses over pretty well. He told me to meet him at his house the next day, which was Saturday for a ride.Wayne1This date is pretty unforgettable as it was April’s birthday. I got my bad habits from Wayne. Two things happen on every ride. They are LONGER and they are HARDER then promised – ALWAYS! I left early, told April I’d be home in a few hours and met Wayne at his house. We drove to Valyermo and got on our bikes headed up the mountain to Wrightwood. I knew it was going to be a big ride, but I had no idea how big. The most impressive thing in the world at the time for me was a TV show called Eco Challenge. It was a documentary of an Expedition Race that would last 7-10 days with no assistance and a number of outdoor disciplines (hiking, biking, paddling,swimming, mountaineering, horseback, rope climbing. etc). It was everything that i ever wanted to do but it didn’t seem in any way humanly possible. As we rode all I talked about to Wayne was Eco. How whatever we were doing was just a fraction of what they do. We were out for a few hour ride. They went 10 days straight. This probably annoyed Wayne as the day progressed and he probably went into I’ll show you mode… This might have been the point where the ride quadrupled in length. He was thinking – I’ll show you Eco Challenge…
So we climbed the mountain past Jackson Lake, past the ski lifts to the very topWayne2

and then descended Acorn into Wrightwood and had lunch. I was prepared for a 2 hour MTB ride and we were already 4 hours in. Just like Everest, when you reach the summit you are exactly half way done. After lunch we climbed out on Highway 2 to the lifts, up Blue Ridge, and descended back down to Jackson Lake. Then we did the gnarliest descent above Manzanita with an absolutely insane skree slide that dumped us back into Valyermo. Now remember this is the hard tail era, high seat posts and 80mm forks. Total ride time – just under 8 hours, just over 65 miles. Welcome back to cycling! One other take for granted element of today – no cell phones. I would not be talking to April for another half hour or so until we got back to Wayne’s. That is to say if she was ever going to talk to me again… This story is 100% relevant to what was about to happen next. I was in for big changes. Block Bikes was in for some big changes. And April? She was about to become the most patient woman on the planet… Till next time!…

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