It used to be you could go to a trade show, show some stuff and your rep force would write down orders. And then they’d visit the dealers that didn’t go to Interbike and write a bunch more orders. That world is part of an economy that no longer exists. Out the window with job security, wage growth and pensions.
Simply being competitive in the bike market requires manufacturers to think in fresh and creative ways. Not only do you have to produce products of exceptional value, you need sophisticated marketing, integrated education for sales staff, and the ability to get product to dealers at speeds the postal service can’t match. It’s an order taller than an NBA forward.
The French brand Mavic is among a small collection of brands that calls the Northeast its stateside home (Pennsylvania then suburban Boston). While their neutral support program gave them an intimate yet broad reach, they have struggled to maintain as high profile a presence on the West Coast as California-based brands (understandable) or even the Chicago-based SRAM once they grew their neutral support.
All that changed last week when the manufacturer announced the opening of la Maison Jaune (the Yellow House) in Newbury Park, California. The facility sits just down the road from Giant’s U.S. headquarters in Ventura County at the very edge of Los Angeles’ massive sprawl (no one wants 10 million people on 10 miles of beach).
So what is it? Well, it serves two purposes. The front of the “house” is a showroom. Nearly every product Mavic currently produces is on hand (I didn’t know they were doing hydration packs). It’s just the sort of space where reps can have a calm meeting with a store buyer, or where shop staff can sit through a presentation on a product’s technical benefits. And if there’s one thing for which shop staff is frequently criticized, it’s their knowledge level about any product they aren’t riding.
For journalists, it’s the perfect antidote to Interbike. The idea that I might return in a few weeks to spend a day going through the entire apparel and shoe line with nary an interruption made me slightly giddy. I’ve no idea if their apparel fits me or if I’d even like it, but I’d welcome the chance to at least learn about it in an environment you wouldn’t call makeshift.
As Mavic has expanded its offerings away from wheels and components, my knowledge level has decreased at a squared function. And it’s not for lack of interest. I’m hoping these new digs give me a chance to learn their product line better. Their use of photography to evoke the drama and beauty of cycling is beyond stylish. And while I didn’t shoot it, the bathroom (which was built out with a shower) includes a shot from the Roubaix velodrome showers. Yeah.
When I toured the new facility, part of the invitation included plans for a ride, so naturally, this being Mavic, all the bikes needed to be checked to make sure they were in tip-top shape. I’m not really a motorcycle guy (unless we’re watching them go 150 mph on TV), but I really dig a motorcycle with wheel racks. Mavic really set the bar for what great neutral support is and their level of preparedness defined PRO support. Look up neutral support in Wikipedia and you’ll see Mavic’s logo.
Thanks to its location, la Maison Jaune will be hosting rides here and there as a means to foster the bike culture it supports. I can’t wait for me as it will give me access (easier access) to all those climbs in the far western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains. And maybe I’ll finally get a chance to ride some of the ultra-fast Cosmic CXRs.