Independent Fabrication: Something’s Burning In Somerville

Momentum Magazine (image completely unrelated to this story, just a great shot of IF’s LPB)

There have been rumors floating around Somerville, MA for a while now, rumors that Independent Fabrication will be packing up shop and moving northward to New Hampshire in search of cheaper rent and generally lower costs. At this point the proverbial cat seems to be out of the proverbial bag (“proverbial” is a word I like to use to make me sound smarter, and using it twice in one sentence makes me sound double-smart). Embrocation Cycling Journal has posted an article on its site analyzing some of the implications of the imminent move.

Recently, it’s come to light that the majority owner of IF, Gary Smith, has decided to move the facility from Somerville, MA to somewhere in New Hampshire, roughly in the Portsmouth area.

[Smith] mentioned, on more than one occasion, moving to a better-equipped facility somewhere in the Boston area, but also talked openly about wanting to do a specialty retail store somewhere in the Portsmouth, NH area. The problem with this approach is that IF has, since its inception, been closely associated with the Boston area; its employees dedicated Bostonian urbanites.

Gary Smith and IF were the subject of a 2005 CNN segment called “Turnaround.” (At the time Smith was senior vice president of Timberland’s worldwide supply chain). Smith outlined how he would turn — the small, Somerville frame builder — around. After he took over at IF, things did appear to be turning around. Some incredible bikes were coming out of the shop, and now this — a move that could, at the least, disrupt the culture of IF, and, at the worst, destroy the company completely.

Clearly, these departures (and possibly, very probably, more to come) signal a sea change in the culture at IF. Gary Smith’s decision to relocate, while clearly motivated by the desire to do what’s in the best business interests of the company, may have the unfortunate and ironic side-effect of irrevocably harming the brand image and culture surrounding IF.

Independent rose from the ashes of Fat City fifteen years ago, and while no one here is talking about ashes or things rising from them (yet)…something is definitely burning in Somerville.

Bikerumor will have more insight into the situation soon, stay tuned.

Comments

Steve - 01/04/11 - 3:13pm

Well aint that some shit.

Russ - 01/04/11 - 5:39pm

Compare the tax rates for a small company in MA vs NH. Look at any costs for that matter when comparing doing business in either place. I can’t believe they didn’t leave years ago.

GLeister - 01/04/11 - 7:24pm

At least it is not China, yet!

Colorado Goat - 01/04/11 - 9:12pm

Look,

this is a guy who worked at a Company (Timberland) which outsources all of its work to overseas plants for lower labor. He may or may not have a vision for IF, but clearly, this vision is not the same as what many of its admirers have. IF (and Seven for that matter), are rooted in Boston, and the brands are (much like Waterford), connected to those communities.

I guess the key question is how is this going to impact the creative culture of IF? I for one feel that IF’s culture and creativity were in part based on its employees, who, because of their lives, and where they live, were able to infuse this spirit into the company. Can that work in a more rural environment of Portsmouth, NH.

Portsmouth is known for its former airbase commercial center, which is where numerous companies have set-up plants and shops. And if you are producing something which is not linked to an image and sense of where the product comes from (for example – there are some pharmaceutical plants there, but no one is using a prescription pill because of the culture, location and employees from which it comes). But IF, that is different.

I just do not think it will be the same company. It would like moving Moots from Steamboat, CO to Pueblo, CO. Sure – cheaper to do business, but the product is not going to have the same attributes tagged to the product once the link to its heritage and culture are torn aside in the name of lower costs.

ifrider - 01/06/11 - 11:30am

Latest news…

http://www.ifrider.com/changes-at-if/

al case - 01/18/11 - 1:45am

I think the move from TAXICHUSSETTS to NH is a grea idea. Living in Northfeild, NH i have seen a guy from MASS come here and start HIGHLAND mt. bike park which brought much needed income to a small town as well as awareness of a great sport to an abondened ski mt. with alot of potential. Being the only TRACK BIKE RIDER(EX MESSENGER FROM WASHINGTON D.C.) IN TOWN i always get funny looks from people when i do track stands at local stoplights. Anybody who wants to bring bikes to N.H. i say come on. i used to messenger with their lead painter CHRIS ROWE in RICHMOND, V.A. AND D.C. and look foward to getting in contact with him to do anything i can to help their transition. PEACE….AL CASE 603-520-4309

Ronnie G Finisher at Indy Fab - 02/03/11 - 9:20pm

Why don’t the people who hate on us contact the people who are staying. I’m glad a lot of people left, work is awesome now….thanks al case…..you know me.

Ron

James - 04/02/13 - 12:44pm

Moving to NH is The End of IndyFab. Its simply not the same company anymore. No one thinks this is a cool company anymore. How sad. Whenever a corporate business guy gets involved they destroy souls. This used to be a Co-Op business..now the capitalists took over. Relocating to NH might shave a few pennies on tax but tax is what helps the little people, you greedy monkeys. IF was once owned by the people and located in a very cool part of Boston and has moved to a conservative, gun-toting, intellectual backwater cultural wasteland. In trying to save these few pennies they just ruined the brand. IF are now known as the greedy, sellouts of the bicycle frame making industry.

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