Kitsbow’s Ride House: where the adventure begins and ends
A version of this article appeared in the September issue of BRAIN.
OLD FORT, NC (BRAIN) – If the city needed any sign other than the Old Fort Ride House was quickly taking shape, it got one – literally – in late July when a wooden sign from the Pisgah National Forest arrived on loan from the Forest Service during an employee training day.
As everyone gathered and debated where it should be posted, it became clear that the Ride House – billed as “your shelter from the storm, your launching pad for your adventure, and your base camp at your own.” return ”- was in focus. The vinyl flooring and carpet coverings recently revealed a rustic-looking concrete, worthy of an outdoor visitor center designed to receive a lot of foot traffic.
The fact that many that day were looking at the ground and where the sign was to be placed was an apt metaphor for a typical day exploring Pisgah by bike or on foot: lots of lows with lots of highs.
The Rise of the Ride House is the final piece of CEO David Billstrom’s blueprint envisioned when he and founder Zander Nosler moved Kitsbow Cycling Apparel in December from California to Old Fort, a town of 700 textile factories in the mountains of the United States. western North Carolina.
Located on the first floor of the former Parker Hosiery Co. building, the 2,100 square foot Ride House will serve as the main entrance to the 23,000 square foot Kitsbow manufacturing facility upstairs.
Building and maintaining the Ride House will be “expensive”, but “it provided jobs during the pandemic,” Billstrom said.
An outdoor center
The Ride House, slated to open in August with a staff of six, will serve as a hub for cyclists and hikers, adventurers and even families who just want to stroll along the cobbled section of Fonta Flora. State Trail along the Ride House. . Secure parking will be provided in two lots, a free filtered bottle filling station, indoor toilets and changing rooms, and take-out snacks and drinks for sale. In addition, the Ride House “Rangers” will provide trail knowledge and advice. Eventually, bike rental and a light bike mechanic service will also be offered.
Despite low expectations in the first year, Billstrom said he expects the Ride House to end up making a modest profit from food / drink sales and rentals.
“We want them to be connected to this place,” Billstrom said. “This is where the rubber hits the road.”
To facilitate this connection, a Kitsbow kiosk will be set up inside, displaying the latest seasonal clothing and available to try on. If a customer wants to buy, they can order it online and have it shipped to them. All Kitsbow clothing is made to order. Of them
TV screens showing the Kitsbow manufacturing process will be broadcast live with factory tours offered.
“Our goal is not to sell you clothes,” Billstrom said. “We want to help you have a great time in Pisgah and Old Fort and build community.”
To help cyclists and hikers stay connected to their GPS devices, the Ride House has USB charging ports outside under a covered porch lined with picnic tables. Next to the tables are bicycle racks, with additional locks provided.
Add new neighbors next door to a Hillman Beer brewery and a Mill Creek Mug cafe and you’ve got a small town that’s busy.
“We want it to be a destination,” Billstrom said.
Access key to the Fonta Flora trail
When Kitsbow began to look for ways to reduce his reliance on Asia to make clothes, he began relocation efforts and eventually led to focus on Old Fort. A key factor was the location of the Parker Hosiery building with Fonta Flora Trail. When completed, the east-west trail will connect Morganton, NC to Asheville and include a loop around the Lake James Reservoir in Nebo. It will also connect to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail and the Mountain to the Sea National Trail. When completed – 15.7 miles are currently available – the Fonta Flora will be approximately 100 miles long.
The completion of the Ride House will close a busy year for Kitsbow, which has added an unexpected new manufacturing division: Personal Protective Equipment. Three months after his move, he answered the call to help first responders and medical staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed manufacturing cycling clothing, and its quick and successful pivot caught the attention of Congress. Billstrom was invited to testify virtually from North Carolina in July before a subcommittee tasked with finding ways to support small businesses and improve supply chain resilience during the pandemic.
“Kitsbow has grown into three companies: Apparel, PPE and The Ride House,” Billstrom said.
And it’s all leading to other companies interested in moving to Old Fort, said Chuck Abernathy, McDowell County economic director and point of contact for expanding the industry and its locations.
“The Ride House is a very welcome addition to the Kitsbow location,” said Abernathy. “The building and hallway that this facility is in now includes a brewery, café, and the possible location of an outfitting manufacturing operation that takes location into account. It’s all about momentum. Location. Combination of Kitsbow and Hillman’s Brewery created that momentum. “