Kitsbow, the cycling apparel company based in Old Fort, N.C., will permanently close in the coming weeks. An announcement came yesterday in a long and detailed website post from company CEO David Billstrom, who said the company known for high-end cyclist kits “could not get enough operating capital to grow.”
Kitsbow recently fell short of a WeFunder-based financing effort to raise $1 million by approximately 50 percent.
“It is devastating and disappointing – in ways that words cannot possibly convey,” Billstrom stated. “Terrible for our community Old Fort and McDowell County, North Carolina. In each of the past three years, Kitsbow injected an annual payroll of approximately $2 million dollars into a rural town previously in economic decline for 30 years.”
Kitsbow moved operations from California to the small western North Carolina mountain town in 2019. The move complemented the Old Fort Trails Project and other initiatives to make the town a top biking destination.
During the early days of the pandemic in 2020, the company was one of the first in the outdoor industry to quickly pivot to manufacturing personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
At the beginning of last year, the operation, known for focusing on U.S.-based manufacturing of popular mountain biking and gravel riding products like Icon shirt, started the transition towards becoming an employee-owned benefit corporation.
“Our apparel industry is deeply broken, and like to think we were showing that there was a different way: made local, respecting artisan skills, paying a Living Wage, and working together as a community,” Billstrom added. “Our crew made 17,000+ garments during 2022 right here in the U.S. and we humbly hope that we have changed minds about the way clothes have to be made, and by whom.
“We’ve greeted each day for the past three years, and especially in the last 15 months of employee ownership, intent on making more clothes, truly living our values, and bumping up the Kitsbow brand with intention and thoughtful actions. We have been stewards of the planet, of our community, and of you, our customers and partners.”
Kitsbow will remain open for production until April 7, and currently all products are marked down 20 percent on the company’s website, with all remaining sales final and not eligible for returns.
Photos courtesy of Verde Brand Commincations