My name is Erik Noren, and the company I run and own is Peacock Groove. My story starts a while ago and has had many strange twists and turns.... (Fade out in a smokey veil...)
It was the summer of 1992 and I just graduated high school and was looking to spend as little time being responsible as possible. But I still had a job at The Malt Shop in St. Paul. I had been working there since 1989 and loved my job as a sodajerk. I made ice cream treats for the peoples and once even for the Mayor, who shook my hand and said:" That was the best damn banana malt I ever had." I knew he was lying because he was a politician.I was still working at the Malt Shop, when Dan Casebeer of Grand Performance in St. Paul told me that Croll Cycles is looking for a welder. And, I had welding experience. I passed on the job, because, well, we don't always make the best decisions ....
My buddy Dave got a job at Croll, and he got me to come and talk to Walter, and then Walter told me to apply. So I did, and I got the job.
I built my first atb bike there too, a 753-mountain bike. Lugged. 3.75 pounds. I even had to fab some custom lugs. They were not that pretty; they looked like a ducks bill. It was awesome. I never knew a bike could ride so great; I was really starting to understand this frame builder thing now. I know why people get hooked. I fell in love with the smell of steel.
I learned about weld pull, heat distortion, how to " pull " angles, set up, prep, cleaning, and liked to talk like Darth Vader when in my hood. I was always trying to have fun too. Croll was doing well, but they tried to grow too fast, they got a loan from the Mpls small business association and went for it. But, long story short, it did not work. I stayed on and got the last of the orders out. I had to get these bikes out, to the people who ordered them. I often did it with tears in my eyes. The company changed hands…
I started working for Frank by getting everything set up, getting on the phone to old shops that carried us, and just telling them what was up. This was shaping up to be awesome. We built about 120 frames a year. We also did some contract work too. I was in love with this style of life. It was so cool to go to big mtb races, and awesome times were had at the downtown crit races...it was so much culture involved, I felt like I was living my dreams, and it was all good. Life’s view from the saddle is hard to beat. I worked for Frank for about 5 years before things were changing for him. He was going to sell the company.... heartbreak again! It was just before then I got a part time job at QBP . Which, turned into full time because of things that were changing in the world of Croll.
But, the company was going to be sold to another guy and kept going. This part I will sum up, there is much confusion that went on at this time, but I was around for it all, even had to go to a lawyer about it, and I know the full story about how this all went down. I worked for the guy who bought it for a while and we finally had the "big" argument. It was about a bike that I would not finish, because I said it was not up to my QC standards, and he said it had to be finished. I told him that I would not because it was not safe. If I would not ride it, it won't go out the door. The big argument was big, and he left in a tiff.
Well, that's when it was starting to weigh heavy on me, I was working two jobs, and helping to rebuild a business and it was too much for me. I was going to get out, but first, I had to build MY bike…
I decided to make the first Peacock Groove. And the minute he closed that door and left, I put in my two weeks notice on his door. Then, I fired up the mitering machine and got to it.
I stayed up for two days and built my, MY first bike. I stamped " ONE AND ONLY" in the bb shell, because I was going to go out with this one bike, and have to go back to the " sucky" world. I got that bike from drawing to paint in two days. I hand filed the suits of a deck of cards in the disc brake mount, as a modern day nod of appreciation to guys like Sachs, Weigle , Kvale, and De Rosa, even though they would never know it...
I named the bike Peacock Groove. Mostly because around that time there were so many bikes named after Raptors, and I wanted something cool, groovy, stylistic. I saw a peacock on tv earlier that week, and he had his strut, his harem, and just looked like a mack out there in his field, and I said that peacock is just groovin' . Well, it stuck....
I had that bike and just had a full time gig at he Q, so I rode. A lot. It was really weird to have all these guys starting to talk and ask me about my bike, who built it and what not. I would just kinda laugh and tell them it was some douchebag in California. They all believed me.
Well, this is where the story REALLY begins. I quit working for jerk guy about six months prior, and something was just missing...I had some thing that just wasn't, well, grooving for me.
I had to build bikes again. Some how. I knew it had to be done by me and how do I go about that? A friend’s girlfriend said that I should see this space down by the U of M. That it was cool and that it was on the seventh floor. I cried inside wondering how often I would have to walk up seven flights ...
I went down there to look at it, and the minute I walked in I thought:" This is Peacock Groove". I went home and talked to the Pops about a loan. I told him all about it, and that I need a welder, fixture, Bridgeport, beer, and a little help. He loaned me 10 grand. I spent it the next day on a Miller and an Anvil setup. Took me a half hour to blow ten grand. I can still do that too. I paid him back in the first year and a half. Not bad I thought.
The rent was cheap, real cheap, but the area was, well, kinda shitty.Real shitty.I saw an ATF raid on the building once. They were going for the meth lab in there. Yep, meth. If they knew about all the pot other people were growing.... There was also a little hooker action going on, glass blowers, artists of every kind, a Vespa dealer, spice factory, motorcycle mod dudes, a couple of hoarders, some bimbo selling heroin whom was right next to me. I got her kicked out. I mean porn being filmed in the building, ok, but heroin? No. No heroin please.
After A couple of years I had built a "loft" in the shop( we had 17 to 25 foot tall ceilings ) and 3 years after I did that the owner put and eviction notice on my door. That was the time when I got back from the first NAHBS I went to. It was the first one held in San Jose. I came back to really wanting to build, but I was getting kicked out. Trust me, out of all the tenets he had, he should keep me. I had a great epic style argument about the loft, which was the reason he was evicting me. The loft was solid. This guy was kicking out one of the 3 good people in his building. Seriously, I lost my temper. He let people make meth in there, but I was the problem? I started looking for a new place, a guy I knew told me to go look at the Ivy Building in the Seward 'hood. I did. I drove by it and said that there was no way I am going to be able to build bikes in there. I went around to the back of the building and saw a CHRIS KVALE CYCLES sign on the door. I thought, if that guy can build here, so can I.
With all this work going on, too much stress, not riding anymore (real miles anyway) it was all becoming too much for me, and I made the decision this time that I was going to fold Peacock Groove. That I was going to go to the NAHBS one last time, and then come back to the shop, finish the orders that I have, and sell everything. That was the 2009 nine show. I brought four bikes, and went down there with my good friend Vincent Dominguez. I brought two of my personal bikes, and the KILL BILL themed bike, and the copper plated bike. These were not really the bikes I wanted to bring, but time was an issue. I just wanted to go hang with these talented people one more time. Before I left, I told my boss that I was folding the shop when I come back, and just work up in the Bike Builder department. (Assembly, NOT actual building). She said it was all good. I told her that I was at peace with the decision, and that it will be for the best.
Well, long story short, certain people hated my bike, wrote horrible things about me and my business on the "other forum", people started a petition to get me banned, I was told that I was a pervert and that I was a bad human being. All from people at the show. I thought, "What's the big deal?” It was epically bad. What was funny, that a week later the same bikes were in a motorcycle show, and no one cared about the "artwork", or the themes. In fact they loved it.
I came back to MN and got to work the next day. I was fired from Q for taking 3 feet of cable housing from the Bike Builder department stock. It was no big deal. But, they fired me. After 11 years of good work, even if a bit mouthy at times....
I went back to the shop. It was so mind bending. Here I was ready to give all this up, I was at peace with it, and plan b got up and time warped away from me. I did not know what to do. I lost everything I had worked so hard for. No health coverage. No 401K. No steady income. I did not handle this well. I took me months to get over it. Working at Q was like time with a family that I loved. And it was taken from me for 1.52 dollars worth of housing. It was more than unfair, but life is rough. Wear a helmet.
But, why do I build?
Because the juice is worth the squeeze . Because life's view from the saddle is great. Because I am alive. Because I want to. Because I NEED to.Helping people live dreams is important in this world.
And I love it when I get e-mails from customers that tell me I have helped change their life, that what I did has an effect on their quality of life. And, I need to see my vision of bikes is done.