It actually happened the first time in Junior High School - the anomaly of making quality, handmade products for a fringe crowd. Skateboards, wood worked from oak out of his parents’ garage. You know the type of kid. The one spawned from an artist and engineer. The one always taking things apart.
Years later there would be that strange, sideways minute on many artisans’ timeline when they try to do right and get a real job. But after a year and a half working as an engineer in San Francisco, an artisan will take another minute to self correct, say “fuck it,” and move to a small town where he can afford to buy a 49,000 dump to call home.
Rotting floor posts, moldy carpet, and a leaky roof. The only criteria for the house was that it have a sizeable garage for his machines. That was 1988. Life was good. And mountain biking, with all its crappy components included, was catching on.
Can you imagine what 30,000 dollars means to an engineer working as a frame builder living in a dilapidated hermitage? In the 80s, no less? That was the first order placed by an Austrian businessman who saw the prototype of Paul’s quick release, the component that built the foundation of Paul Component Engineering.
And now can you imagine the sheer panic of needing to fill that order with two pieces of hand machinery - one mill; one lathe - and being your only employee?
Untraditional circumstances in untraditional times call for untraditional action. A hole was cut in the middle of the closet to fit the new finishing machine, so it wouldn’t shake the house to collapse. Assembling and shipping areas were in his home too as well as the new employees.
With bedroom as sanctuary and bathroom as health hazard, there’s only one direction you can go when ingenuity and integrity isn’t viewed as sacrifice.
Slowly and gradually - we don't preach it in this culture, but sometimes, that is the best way to build an enterprise. One with a soul, anyway. And one with really good stories.
Not only much-needed creativity, but change comes to an industry when there’s a quiet tinkerer living on the outskirts of what’s normal and building something very different - out of whatever ramshackled nothing they’re building it from.
Many years, bike shows, and parties later there’s an old Texaco warehouse with state-of-the-art machines humming inside and still some old hand operated ones used to build prototypes. There is still constant thrashing on bikes in Bidwell Park, one of the gnarliest mountain biking areas in the country, to test and improve components. Every last scrap of aluminum is 100% USA forged and every component is 100% USA made.
That’s the beauty of being a perfectionist. You do things the hard way.
Therefore, you do things that matter.