This is the period of great change. We moved to our brand new custom building, opened Stark Raven Cycles (SRC) and had a giant open house. Tons of people showed up and we quickly had a good foothold in the market. Surprisingly SRC exceeded our sales volume forecasts and made money in the first year. Our initial model was to be a very small, lean pro shop with one or two employees and only cater to the high-end. Unfortunately we (really just me, Tony and Loretta hated the idea) got greedy and lost focus. We grew it too fast and then made a fatal mistake; we took on skis. While we labored under the weight of a failing ski investment Strong Frames suffered from my lack of attention. All of a sudden Strong Frames which originally had enough strength to build the building, fund the bike shop and pay it’s staff was struggling to survive. I had to decide if I wanted to risk it all to save the bike shop or abandon the bike shop and save Strong Frames.
I learned a lot and don’t regret a thing but it was easily the hardest time in my business history to date. Tony moved to Lewistown to start his own business “The Freewheeling Tony Smith”. Tony and I are still on good terms but I sure miss him around the shop. Things have a funny way of working out though and it’s almost like things just happened the way they were supposed to. I had several employees leave, a couple more wanted to go off to college and so we saw an opportunity to close the store. One of my good friends here in town, Pete Hendrickson owns a really cool brew pub across the street http://www.montanaaleworks.com/ and has a large staff of young outdoorsy people. I was telling him that I was considering closing the retail shop and might be having a liquidation sale. He told some of his employees and before you knew it they were knocking down the door for the sale. We had the whole store liquidated in about two weeks.
So now we had an empty retail space and large under-performing Framebuilding shop. I had Nic Schmidt working for me at the time and his talent and smarts really helped me make some good choices. Loretta, Nic and I decided to downsize the shop to the smallest space manageable and move back to a one man operation. I kept Nic for a one year transition period which allowed him to look for work and Strong Frames to transition to a one man shop. Meanwhile I found tenants for the space I’d vacated. This is where I am today. I now occupy a small portion of the building and lease out the rest of the space.