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.