RockyMounts Survived the Pandemic. But It’s Not Over.
The Colorado-based maker of bike racks and locks is a case study in the uncertainty that small outdoor businesses are navigating right now. With the right combination of luck and creative thinking, their future may not be all gloomy.
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Crystal Tyndall had been working at RockyMounts, a leading bike-rack and lock manufacturer based in Grand Junction, Colorado, for less than a month when owner Bobby Noyes called his staff into an all-hands meeting. It was Thursday, March 19, and the company’s 14 employees gathered in a room at their temporary headquarters, a former welding college with cycling jerseys hanging on the wall. The world had begun to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Noyes, who founded RockyMounts 25 years ago, wanted to tell his team how the shutdown was impacting the company.
Tyndall and her colleagues listened in silence as their normally brazen leader informed them he was taking a pay cut to become the brand’s lowest-paid employee. Noyes said he had no idea what was about to happen or whether RockyMounts would survive. “That was when my stomach started to turn,” Tyndall recalls. “It was hard to hear. I felt like Bobby was laying himself down to be run over by the train and save the rest of us. I got emotional.”
Despite the dire message, after Noyes finished talking, staff members made it clear that they had his back. “Everybody in that meeting was like, ‘Hey, whatever you need me to do, just tell me and I’ll do it,’” Tyndall says. Business continued, albeit shakily, for another four days. Then dealer orders stopped entirely. “You could see the iceberg coming,” says Lou Patterson, a 48-year outdoor industry veteran who consults for RockyMounts. With Colorado’s COVID-19 cases at the time nearing 1,000 and growing by 20 to 30 percent each day, employees began to fear getting infected at work. Legally, Noyes was permitted to stay open, but with little business and the potential health risk to his staff, he closed the RockyMounts office on March 24, one of the first bike brands to do so. He furloughed his employees indefinitely without pay but with health insurance. Five of those employees had just recently moved to Grand Junction for the job. “Literally,” Noyes says, “one kid had worked here for two weeks.”
When I later asked how worried he was that his business would fold on a one-to-ten scale, Noyes said eight. His employees sensed it, too. “I was at a nine or ten after that meeting,” Tyndall says.