Independent Fabrication classic downtube decal.
Independent Fabrication history.
Somerville and Boston.
The history of IF starts in Somerville, Massachusetts. Somerville is next to Cambridge and IF's current address is located just 2 miles from downtown Boston. Greater Boston is arguably the center of East Coast bicycle development. With more universities and colleges than most towns have gas stations, there are hordes of bicycle riders, athletes and techies for whom bicycling is a way of life.
It also explains how 6 people from Texas, New York, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Virginia and Connecticut ended up working together in the Boston area to form Independent Fabrication, Inc..
The Fat City Legacy.
All but one of the founding members of IF were veterans of Fat City Cycles of Somerville, Massachusetts, a pioneer in the development of mountain bikes. Fat City Cycles closed its doors in Somerville in October of 1994, when it was sold to a holding company which had acquired another bike company (Serotta) in Glens Falls, New York.
The holding company moved the Fat City equipment to Glens Falls, but left its most important assets behind, the Fat City employees. For you history buffs, the owner of the holding company was Archibald Cox, Jr., son of the courageous Watergate prosecutor.
What had drawn the original Fat City employees together was the passion shared by all for building the best bikes possible. Chris Chance, founder of Fat City, provided a unique outlet for this passion where kindred spirits gathered and were nurtured. Each of these former Fat City folk value their time with Fat City and are very respectful of Chris Chance who made that experience possible.
It is this passion for bicycles that saw former engineering student, Lloyd Graves, racing, wrenching, fabricating and forming strong opinions as to what works and doesn't in bicycle design and fabrication. It was this same passion that drove Lloyd to take the lead in pulling together the former Fat City employees to form IF.
It is this passion that prompted former liberal arts major, Jeffrey Buchholz to become an extremely talented machinist and tool maker. His various bicycles are Jeff's only means of transportation. Purchasing used milling machines at auction, Jeff re-engineered them to perform the various tasks of frame fabrication.
Since they had the opportunity to see how others make frames, IF is truly proud of what Jeff's skill and ingenuity have contributed to their company.
Mike Flanigan's attention to the details of fine welding and painting is an expression of his passion for bicycles and is the reason why many consider IF welding and painting to be the best in the industry. Mike has biked cross the USA and would do that full time if he could. It is his experience and judgment that are the foundation of the Independence and Club Racer.
Steven Elmes' passion for biking is expressed in his experience as mechanic, racer and sales guru. His experience on the race course and as mechanic for the US Cyclocross Team made him particularly sensitive to the needs of high performance bicycle riders.
Bicycling is an essential part of Jane Hayes' life. Jane had worked at Fat City but left prior to Fat City leaving Somerville. Jane is an active racer as well as daily rider which means she was able to understand the bike stuff behind the financial and program numbers which she prepared. IF was served well by her passion.
Getting It Together.
The former employees of Fat City approached the Somerville Community Corporation (which had been a major source of funding for Fat City) and asked for help in starting a new employee-owned company. The original group included: Lloyd Graves, Mike Flanigan, Jeff Buchholz, Ben Cole, Sue Kirby, and Steven Elmes.
The City of Somerville, through the Somerville Economic Development Partnership, provided $5,000 to support a feasibility study of the project. The money was used to purchase help from The ICA Group in the conduct of the study. The ICA Group is a Boston-based, non-profit organization specializing in the development and support of worker-owned enterprises. Gail Sokoloff of ICA, and the IF team worked together to complete the study. The study showed that the project could be successful and this work served as the foundation of our first business plan.
The study was completed in early 1995. Applications were made for financial support to the Somerville Economic Development Partnership, and the Campaign for Human Development of the United States Catholic Conference. The company was incorporated in May of 1995 and began with workers’ limited money, tools and sweat equity (our most significant investment). We set out to build the company without having any outside investors, i.e. only people who work at IF would own IF.
The Name Battle.
Among the harder fought battles was naming the company. Nerves got seriously frayed before settling on Independent Fabrication. "Independent," was important as they were a group of very independent thinkers and doers. "Fabrication," was important to them as they wanted to convey the care and craftsmanship with which they build every frame. Agreement on the name was not achieved until a friend of the company, Gary Mathis, stepped forward with a beautiful rendition of how the name would look as a down tube logo and how the head badge would look with the IF Crown.
Gary contributed his significant artistic talents in crafting their head tube IF Crown and the down tube logos. The crown and castle are themes derived from a Revolutionary War monument in Somerville. Gary also created their first stickers and T-shirts, including: the notorious naked man sticker, the controversial martini glass sticker and T-shirt, the Somerville castle and the full dress trike which appears on stickers and T-shirts. IF knew Gary had hit a home run with their head badge design when Erol Oran of Atlanta Pro Bikes showed up with it tattooed on his calf.
More of the Independent Fabrication history can be read here.
(source: Independent Fabrication)
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