Three months after moving in, the new Heelside snowboard factory in Hood River, Oregon was ready to run when SNOWboarding Business stopped by in early June.
In the spring of this year Heelside bought the Momentus snowboard factory for an undisclosed amount of money. This factory was based in Ellicottville, New York and had produced its own brand of snowboards, Function, as well as OEM products for clients such as Type A. The new factory will continue to build boards for these brands as well as its own Heelside brand of boards.
The new factory is just across the interstate from the Da Kine offices–no further than a solid Tiger Woods’ three-wood drive from the rough.
Culturally, however, the new factory is quite a long ways from the brand’s former home of St. Louis. According to President and CEO Jim Ferguson, the move provides numerous benefits to the brand: Hood River is close to year-round riding, it’s a town with a strong snowboard heritage, and it cuts eight hours out of the round trip to Asia.
Ferguson, who lives six-months a year near the boot factory he owns in south China, says knowing the language, culture, and business customs of China gives him a competitive advantage other bootmakers can’t match.
Intense and direct, Ferguson has a take-no-prisoners approach to the snowboarding market and offering great margins to retailers. But whether the strategy he’s used with boots (high retailer margins, good value, low-key marketing) will work on this side of the Pacific with snowboards remains to be seen.
He says nearly 5,000 boards will be made for the worldwide market at the Heelside Hood River factory this year under the Heelside, Function, and Type A labels. Earlier this year he said his break-even point would be 4,000 boards. The brand also currently builds about 60,000 pairs of boots a year, including nearly 20,000 Switch-compatible models.