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Kitsbow’s ribbon cutting 1

Earlier this year, Kitsbow, a leading manufacturer of cycling apparel and accessories, announced it would move its operations from the San Francisco bay area to Old Fort and create new jobs here. On Wednesday, officials with Kitsbow, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, the McDowell Economic Development Association, the town of Old Fort and the county gathered at the Parker Hosiery building to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebrate this new manufacturing company which is already making products here. At the ribbon cutting were (from left) Chamber representative Walt Bagwell, Kitsbow Chief Executive Officer David Billstrom, Mayor Rick Hensley, company founder Zander Nosler, MEDA Director Chuck Abernathy, Commission Vice Chairman Tony Brown and Stacey Buff, dean at McDowell Technical Community College.

MIKE CONLEY/MCDOWELL NEWS

Kitsbow’s ribbon cutting 2

Kitsbow is a premium clothing brand for cyclists. Using materials from all over the world, Kitsbow makes clothing with innovative materials to create quality, durable gear without sacrificing style. Inside the building at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, Kitsbow had many of its items on a wall display. CEO David Billstrom said these items are in stock (although not for all sizes) and are available for Christmas.

Kitsbow’s ribbon cutting 3

Kitsbow plans to hire more employees in the future and bring the rest of the company’s sewing machines from California to Old Fort. “That whole room will be full of sewing machines,” said CEO David Billstrom. “We won’t be able to have that party again.”

Kitsbow’s ribbon cutting 4

On Wednesday, officials with Kitsbow, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, the McDowell Economic Development Association, the town of Old Fort and the county gathered at the Parker Hosiery building to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebrate this new manufacturing company which is already making products here.

Kitsbow’s ribbon cutting 5

Kitsbow is sharing space in the Parker Hosiery building with another new business for Old Fort. Hillman Beer of Asheville announced earlier this year it would open a brewery in Old Fort by spring of next year. At Wednesday’s gathering, folks could enjoy free cups of Hillman Beer.

Earlier this year, Kitsbow, a leading manufacturer of cycling apparel and accessories, announced it would move its operations from the San Francisco bay area to Old Fort and create new jobs here.

On Wednesday, officials with Kitsbow, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, the McDowell Economic Development Association, the town of Old Fort and the county gathered at the Parker Hosiery building to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebrate this new manufacturing company which is already making products here.

Originally located in Petaluma, Calif., Kitsbow is finishing up its relocation to Old Fort. The company makes jerseys, jackets, hoodies, shorts, gloves, socks, ankle and knee warmers, caps and water bottles for cycling enthusiasts.

In August, Kitsbow Chief Executive Officer David Billstrom said his company would operate in 20,000 square feet of the back section of the Parker Hosiery building, which covers 100,000 square feet. Kitsbow would lease two floors of the building and would soon start making cycling apparel and accessories in time for the Christmas season, Billstrom said at the time.

On Wednesday, Billstrom showed everyone at the celebration that his company is making good on that promise.

“Obviously, we’re making a long term commitment,” he said.

Started in 2012 by mountain bikers, Kitsbow is a premium clothing brand for cyclists. Using materials from all over the world, Kitsbow makes clothing with innovative materials to create quality, durable gear without sacrificing style, according to company officials.

Inside the building, Kitsbow had many of its items on a wall display. Billstrom said these items are in stock (although not for all sizes) and are available for Christmas.

At this moment, Kitsbow in Old Fort has 17 full-time employees. Two of them relocated from California while the other 15 workers are local people who were recently hired. There are also five part-time employees at the Old Fort location. Two other employees will remain in California.

The Old Fort location will be a manufacturing and distribution center. Billstrom said there are plans to open a shop in Old Fort where folks can purchase the products.

He said 50% of the company’s revenue will come from the sale of Old Fort-made products in 2020. He expects that percentage to grow to 95% by 2021.

Approximately 300 company representatives, local leaders and others gathered inside the second floor of the Parker Hosiery building for this celebration.

Kitsbow plans to hire more employees in the future and bring the rest of the company’s sewing machines from California to Old Fort, Billstrom said.

“That whole room will be full of sewing machines,” he added. “We won’t be able to have that party again.”

Billstrom said he’s often asked why his company chose Old Fort for its new location. He said the town has the right combination of available workers, buildings and access to hiking and biking trails. He added Kitsbow employees recently did a cleanup of the Kitsuma trail, which runs from Old Fort to Ridgecrest.

“We’ve got the workforce,” he said to The McDowell News. “We’ve got the building but to have that with the trails is so special. We want to invest in the trails. We want to invest in the community.”

Kitsbow is sharing space in the Parker Hosiery building with another new business for Old Fort. Hillman Beer of Asheville announced earlier this year it would open a brewery in Old Fort by spring of next year. At Wednesday’s gathering, folks could enjoy free cups of Hillman Beer. Billstrom said they were serving Hillman’s kolsch, ESB (Extra Special Bitter) and IPA (India Pale Ale). The party also featured free food from La Guinguette of Black Mountain, a Kitsbow favorite.

Billstrom said a lot of what is new and exciting for Old Fort is being made possible due to the efforts of Jeff and Amy Parker, who own that building.

“Jeff is unrelenting in his energy,” said Billstrom. “He’s the one who is making things happen.”

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