Sometimes there’s an actual person making the products we buy

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This is Tim. He’s a craftsman, a precision welder and he’s meticulously working on my new bicycle frame.

Once upon a time, before the Industrial Revolution, before malls, before mass media and advertising, we knew who made the stuff we bought. Well maybe we didn’t but our grandparents and great grandparents did. They were on first name terms with the the baker, the butcher, the cobbler, the tailor even the furniture maker.

The folks who who touched, cooked, sewed, designed, built and assembled the products purchased by past generations weren’t hidden behind brands, packaging and advertising campaigns.

Believe it or not in those days they also had these archaic institutions known as full-service gas stations where cheerful men greeted motorists by their first name before filling their tanks, washing their windows and checking their oil.

The relationships consumers had with brands, product makers and manufacturers then was quite different than the one we have with Amazon now. Or with the kid behind the counter at the Mobil Mart.

Sure some of us buy artisan bread, chat with the meat cutter behind the counter at Whole Foods, or even have a personal mechanic rather than dropping the car off at the dealer. But most of us don’t. And even if we do we’re too busy multi-tasking, checking our phones, and posting updates to actually have a conversation with the person who makes the food we eat, the clothes we wear or the vehicles we drive.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the convenience, availability and price advantages of mass produced products. And I’m thrilled if I never have to talk to a human being in a bank. But sometimes knowing the people who make our stuff makes that stuff all the more special.

So today I stopped by Seven Cycles in Watertown, where I’m having the frame for my new “retirement from Mullen bicycle” fabricated. Long term employee Karl Borne gave me a tour of the shop. He explained Seven’s custom frame-building process — from speccing the titanium and carbon, bending the chain stays, maintaining tolerances, welding the frame, integrating the carbon, completing assembly — and introduced me to Tim Delaney, the craftsman, or better yet artist, who is doing the actual welding.

I was pleased to see that Tim looked just as I hoped he would. Seasoned. Experienced. Focused. And that everyone there took pride in what they made and how they made it.

It left me with an even better feeling about a brand I already love. And it will most certainly make my new bicycle ride better. Somehow I’m not sure that even the best website or brochure or ad campaign could ever do that.

10 comments
commoncents
commoncents

I start local. Guys i went to school with keep my van running. I buy my vans from my friend. My neighbor is my landscaper. Drugs local druggist. Hometown Doctor. Local grocery store. Local honey, produce in season. Local butcher shop in next town. They butcher local raised beef 3x weekly. Two local men made my Grandfathers clock from old local grown cherry wood. This stuff means more to me and to them. I love them.

SteveWellmeier1
SteveWellmeier1

Seven Cycles, a real toy store for serious cycling enthusiasts. I bet you can't wait for it to be finished … and for spring. 


What you didn't mention in this post, but which I think is quite relevant, is the great role that social media can play for any company, but particularly small ones, in putting a human face and personality to the brand name. It's a great equalizer, enabling a small fabricator like Seven Cycles to compete with other high-end but quantity-produced bikes like Trek, Colnago or Pinarello. (Seven Cycles probably sells those, too.) Not as good as face-to-face contact, but better than a website, brochure or ad campaign in helping forge a loyal relationship.

molly_delaney
molly_delaney

@edwardboches yes, but not as often as I like. Getting to know the people behind the product can inevitably lead to stronger brand loyalty.

molly_delaney
molly_delaney

Four Seas Ice Cream on Cape Cod is a great example of people seeking out a smaller brand for not only a unique product, but experience. 


There are plenty of ice cream chains or store brands for people to choose from, but the interesting thing about Four Seas is that it's been in the same family for the majority of the last 80 years and the ice cream is made by the owner four times a week. 


People visit the shop not just to get the ice cream, but to catch a glimpse at how it's made and talk to the owners and employees about the shop's history. 


MSGiro
MSGiro

@edwardboches I always start with small, indie and local to fill my needs and work my way up from there as it fits.

RichGreif
RichGreif

Nothing beats talking to the real people who handcraft the things we use in our everyday lives. But brands, especially in the service world, could still do a much better job bringing those people and stories to life. Most give us window dressing when what we really want is to know there's an actual person who cares about their craft and their customers.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@SteveWellmeier1  Seven only makes and sells it own. Through its retailers. Small operation with perhaps 20 -- 25 employees in the manufacturing operation. But regardless of where you buy you are invited to visit and see your bike being made.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@molly_delaney @edwardboches  True. Though local ice cream stands in New England is pretty prevalent. In other areas (clothing, furniture, manufactured goods) less so. I, too love my local ice cream parlors.

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