Homewood Snowboards: Turning a passion into a living
By Tataboline Enos
News from the PA Wilds
It started simple. Ryan Williamson and his buddies, Clint Kline and Johnny Mancu, liked to snowboard.
Ryan and Clint were both 26 and from the Pennsylvania Wilds; Johnny, 25, was from Pittsburgh. The three met a few years ago while living in Clarion, playing music, skateboarding and snowboarding.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, Ryan got a call from his step-dad back in Bradford: a bunch of used snowboard manufacturing equipment was for sale in Vermont. Was he interested?
Ryan’s mom and step-dad owned and operated Allegheny Store Fixtures, a manufacturing business in Bradford. Ryan worked at the plant during high school and also took carpentry classes. He liked working with his hands and was passionate about snowboarding. Clint and Johnny were the same way. They decided to take the plunge. Ryan and his folks bought the equipment and Clint and Johnny came on board to help build the boards.
They set up their equipment in a large warehouse next to Allegheny Store Fixtures and began incubating the business. They named it Homewood Snowboards, a nod to the National Forest that surrounded them and the fact their products were locally made. Ryan’s step-dad helped them get the plant set up; a snowboard industry veteran trained them on the equipment; and Ryan’s mom showed them the ropes on the office side of things. “My mom’s been a real big help with that,” Ryan said one day recently while giving a tour of the plant.
Colorful, designed snowboards lined several walls. A small retail area was set up near the
Colorful, designed snowboards lined several walls. A small retail area was set up near the entrance. Behind it, visible to visitors, was the manufacturing area where several stations of tools and machines were set up to create each snowboard, one by one. A massive Fathead sticker of a granny with curlers in her hair, holding a shotgun, was stuck to a wall at the far end of the room. “That’s our security system,” Ryan smiled.
A lot of work and care goes into making each Homewood snowboard. “Making a board is like making a sandwich,” Clint told an online industry reviewer recently. “The bread would be the sublimated topsheet and the sintered base (with edges attached), your meat would be fiberglass, woodcore with ABS sidewalls attached, and one final layer of fiberglass/carbon fiber atop the woodcore, in that order! The mayo is the glue, which is a 2-part epoxy that goes between each layer. You press all that together at about 60psi and 180f for about 45 minutes, then cut it out, clean it up, and BAM! Your sandwich is ready to ride!" He went on to say that his favorite aspect of making a Homewood snowboard "is that we’ve made them, and that someday someone will ride them and forget about some negative crap in their life and have pure, genuine fun."
Homewood's first year in business was a sharp learning curve, Ryan said. “Our main focus was always the product. We did a ton of R&D, having our friends ride the boards and beat the hell out of them.”
Last year, confident in their product, they took it to a few industry shows. They set up a tent with demo boards and people took them out on the slopes. “Everywhere we went last year was really good responses,” Ryan said.
Four retail outlets have picked up the boards so far – The Boardroom in Ellicottville, NY; Erie Sports Store; Eastern H2O in Pittsburgh; and Suburban Blend in Jamestown, NY. Ryan said he’s hoping to bring a few other outfitters, into the fold soon, including some in the Wilds. He said the goal for now is to just keep growing organically and to stay focused on putting out a product they’re proud of.
“We want to do this forever,” Ryan said. “If we make a good product we’ll get a reputation and it will grow from there.”
In the meantime, the guys are learning as they go and living the life of young entrepreneurs. “Last night I slept on the floor,” Ryan confessed during the tour, pointing to a spot in the corner of the factory.
They find ways to relieve the stress though: snowboarding, of course, and also by being creative. Not too long ago a major snowboard company in the US came out with a snowboard emblazoned with a big American flag, Ryan said; in small print it read “Made in China.”
“So to stick it to ‘em we did this,” Ryan laughed, picking up a Homewood board from this year’s line. It was red with a panda on it and the Chinese flag. In big letters across the bottom it says “Made in America.”
Asked if he’d someday take his operation overseas, Ryan smiled.
“We’re always joking about it … ‘Oh, I can’t wait until we get to China.” He grabs an unfinished board and points to a row of tiny metal inserts used to connect boot bindings to the board. “Everything but these small inserts come from the USA,” he said. “And that’s only because we couldn’t find them anywhere in the US.”
Find Homewood Snowboards at www.homewoodsnowboards.com or at 57 Holley Avenue, Bradford, PA.