Let me throw myself into the deep-end on my first submission. With
respect to Dale's comment, I shall add:
Witcomb U.S.A. was formed in 1971. It was a subsidiary of a succesful
outdoor-sports equipment Rep group named Sports East, Inc. The owner was
Ed Allen. He and his staff repped for Gerry, Trak (skis), Allen-A, Kelty, etc.
Ed was always an uber-succesful man in the sporting goods business;
though his burning desire was to be in manufacturing, not just sales.
Enter the early '70's bike boom in America. Ed, along with Nick Dyslin,
did a deal with the Witcomb family to represent its' wares in North
America. It never was clear who hooked up with whom. I suspect there was
a lot of fishing going on, and lots of Yanks were hooking lots of Brits,
so as to ride the wave of that bike boom/ fitness craze/ gas shortage
era. (Let's recall--Roland Salm talked to more than one Italian frame
shop before landing Masi-the Witcomb link was most likely as
serendipitous as that).
Anyway, the liason betewen Connecticut and London was NOT based on
Barry's frame output. Witcomb U.S.A. would import all the European parts
and clothes and whathaveyou that Witcomb sold in the U.K. In those days
there were no major importers and distributers as we know them. It was
the Wild West of the 10 speed era! And in addition to all those parts and
clothes, the Witcombs, for their part, were to set up an assembly line
type bike to be built for them, and designed by them, for the EXPRESS
purpose of exporting to Connecticut. These inexpensive bikes were to be
marketed to Americans as Witcomb 'products'. It was never anyone's
intention to confuse, overlap, or replace the fine work Barry was doing
in Deptford, London. These 'cheap' bikes were to be the 'moneymaker'.
The Wicomb family secured a Government loan, were linked up with a town
in Wales that had factories that needed work, and did a deal with one of
them to visit, and train those people to make the inexpensive bikes.
Since I gotta go back to brazing now, let me sum up that nothing to do
with those Welsh bikes worked. The Connecticut people invested 3 years
waiting to be succesful with it; Barry's frames and all the anciliary
stuff went over swell--it just could'nt support the investment in
time/money Sports East had put into the Witcomb U.S.A. 'thing'.
For the record, Peter & I were there in Connecticut to do 'whatever
needed to be done'. This was a new and fledglng company. Ed did not want
to lose a ton of money. He wanted to BE a manufactuer, not go out of
business TRYING to BE one. Ultimately, Peter & I were asked to make some
frames to add some value to the bike side of the company.
Eventually, the Welsh 'thing' died, Ed lost his drive to deal with the
Brits, people were let go, and Witcomb U.S.A. meant nothing more than the
frames we made in East Haddam.
Since alot of people 'get-off' on this stuff--Peter & I started the frame
shop. We eventually hired Gary Sinkus.
And a year or so later, we gave Chris Chance his job at the shop. There
were one or two others that did some frame work, but were not destined
for careers in frames. And, FINALLY, it's easy after nearly 30 years to
guess who did what for/to whom, it should be noted that NONE of this
would have come to pass without Sports East Inc., Ed Allen, and my
lifelong friend/mentor Nick Dyslin.