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Thread: Spooky Bikes

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    suspectdevice's Avatar
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    Default Spooky Bikes

    Spooky in 1993 sold hardcore and straight-edge-influenced t-shirts at races up the east coast. Kevin Hopkins, his then-wife Christine, his brother Chris Cotroneo, and a kid named Bill were the owners. They got a lot of crap for their looks, their attitude and their beliefs, and the furor garnered enough sales to build some frames. They wanted a bike for the riding where they lived, in SW Connecticut. That bike was the Darkside, and it was a little steeper, taller and shorter than the 71/73/11.75"/1 Norba-Geometry" hardtails of the day. Nothing radical, but it felt pretty great.

    Their progressive punk-rock ideals dictated the frames had to be built in the States. Chris Herting (3D) did the first prototypes, and in '96 the Mothership was added to the lineup. This bike, which Christine raced on the Pro Downhill circuit, used the same geometry as the Darkside and an AMP B3 rear end to get a whopping 85 mm of travel. Then things became a blur: Christine ran off to Europe with Dave Wooten (Tioga Dave), a very shifty marketing guy robbed the company blind, and production ramped up exponentially.

    With the spoils of the freshly closed Pro-Flex factory, and the entire factory Frank the Welder carries around with him, the boys set up Metalhead Manufacturing, using their motley brain trust for contract frame building. Metalhead was turning out over 250 BMX frames a month for Kink, FBM, T1, Schwinn, Metal, among others, when they werent building Spookys. Sales were starting to blow up in the UK, and Chineese ripoffs flooded the UK market.

    We were all in the limelight -- theres a book full of 90s press clippings from bike and lifestyle magazines in 4 languages. We sold 10,000 t-shirts a month to Japan for a while. We were the most influential brand in UK mountain biking in 98-00. Our Metalhead frame is exactly what the UK scene had wanted since the days of stealing Raleigh Trackers from the garage to launch out of bombholes. Brits jump bikes- we made it possible to ride a frame that was strong enough for jumping and still could be ridden like a mountain bike. One picture of the Metalhead in Dirt from the last Anaheim Interbike started a revolution on the other side of the Atlantic that transformed the face of mountain biking worldwide.

    For reasons with which I am getting more familiar every day (overextension leading to constant debt and poverty), Chris and Kevin decided to walk away from the company in 2000. Spooky was gone.

    When Spooky ended, it left a few dozen people across the globe disoriented and directionless. It was a belief system, a religion, even a cult. We were a family of teenagers and 20-somethings for whom Spooky represented the punk ideals of strong community and self reliance. Most of us were Straight Edge, and we truly believed that Revolution was possible. The brand was our band, and throwing a wrench in the corporate and conservative world of bike making and MTB racing was our way of fighting the corrosive messages of consumer capitalism and the resulting social inequality and intolerance.

    From the age of 12, I expected to be a pro mtb racer. From the age of 14 I wanted to do it for Spooky. I finished in the top 10 of big races, but my performance peaked early and I never made the leap from top 10 to the podium. I think now that I was too driven by results and unknown demons. I trained too hard, too young. I got too nervous. Ive puked on some pretty impressive shoes, from Jeremy Horgan Kobelski to Cadel Evans. The circuit was another family to me. Another comfortable brand to exist within and define myself by. I had more friends in this traveling circus than I did in school. I skipped graduation to go to some 2-bit bike race.

    I was drawn to racing by angst: when I was 13, my dad was unable to find employment in New England, and we moved to Hilton Head Island, SC. I missed my old friends and was quick to alienate my new peers to distance them from me. There was a shitty little race through a shitty little swamp in one of the only undeveloped parts of the shitty little Island. My first race was on my 13th birthday. I got lost. My shoelaces wrapped around my crankarm. I finished dead fucking last.

    Bike racing was my way off the island. I was amazingly lucky that the local shop guys were supportive and knowledgeable about the industry. They were Cat1s from UVA who had done their time on the circuit, lifers from all over, and a few Red Meat Ex-Moto guys who just wanted to shred. Shop guys from our sandbar went on to work at Shimano, Adidas, King and Oakley and other less depressing places. I was lucky to be surrounded by professionals from a young age. A few months after that, I met the guys from Spooky at a race in Helen, GA, and that was it.

    Spooky took over from there. Throughout my teenage years, I won a bunch of state championships in road, cx and mtb. SC had a pretty pathetic bike scene then. I won the Jr DH, XC, Trials and TT championships over one weekend in Clemson. I was the fastest XC racer in the state for a while. I felt good about that, but not good enough. When it was time to escape to college, I chose the Pioneer Valley region of Western Massachusetts for its kickass bike scene.

    When Spooky 1.0 fizzled in 2000, I had just started at Hampshire College. Id been urged to go to school by Kevin, instead of moving to Europe to live the ultimate sufferfest, racing in the gutters of Belgium on the kermese circuit in hopes of learning how to suffer enough to return to the U.S. as a competent mid-pack MTB pro. Hanging out and learning from blue-collar full-time pros helped me understand what it takes to be a pro: sacrifice.

    Instead, I chose to study and encourage that sacrifice in others. Because I was able to create my own course of study at Hampshire, I majored in bike racing. Because I knew I would end up designing bikes and products, I got heavily involved with adaptive design and ergonomics, with a sprinkling of industrial design. I went to design collective meetings and helped people to develop their ideas into viable products. I never learned Solidworks. I never machined anything. I was into the psychology, human factors and ergonomics of stuff, an idea guy.

    My focus turned more and more to coaching- inspired a hell of a lot by Myerson and John Verheul as well as my ongoing association with John Howard, personal experience and my fairly rigorous analysis of the scientific literature and ongoing discourse about training with power that was happening on the Internet at that time. I started my own coaching business, Fast-Times, and used it to help support my sorry ass until I started Spooky. I focused on research and development of training modalities for downhill and bmx racing, at the time an under-researched field. In my mid-20s I was working with some pretty good athletes, but I hated working with clients that had the means to pay. Then Kevin gave me the go ahead to turn the Spooky machine back on.

    Within two weeks, I had a purchase order for 260 frames from a UK distro for Metalhead frames that hadnt even been designed yet. I spent the next two years trying to get credit to have the bikes made. My entire business plan was based around outsourcing the mass-production of these bikes. We burnt through tons and tons of money and a chunk of marketing momentum sitting idle, but it did give us some time to decide what we wanted Spooky 2.0 to be.

    We needed to build durable US made aluminum road frames. My friends and I were all pretty damn good road racers, and no one could afford all the fancy wunderbikes that explode on impact. We needed to build a Metalhead for the road.

    Spookys road presence had started to gain momentum as our Skeletor frame gained more exposure. There was a local rider who threw down the money for the second batch of bikes; Im grateful to that dude in a big way. Our old customers who stayed in bikes grew up and are into skinny tires now too. Other people who grew up in the postpunk/hardcore scene were hip to our act too, and soon we had a new and growing family. Weve been lucky to have some fast riders on our bikes and a supportive family to help us weather the bad times. We are winning more races a year now than we were winning in the 90s. Im damn proud of that, even though were still fucking broke.

    Restarting the company created intense flurries of darkness and brilliance, which have made for some amazing chunks of creativity catapulting around lost opportunities and stalled momentum. Now were trying to scale the brand down to something we can handle; building custom bikes is key. Spooky is now my girlfriend Laura (the responsible one) me and Frank The Welder cutting and welding shit to the right specs.

    Im pretty good at designing and marketing shit, Laura has a brain for details and Frank is damn good at making custom bicycles. From his early days welding forks at Mongoose, to being one of the founders of Yeti, to running a 25,000 frame a year contract shop, hes done it all. Now Frank just wants to work with his hands one bike at a time, adding little tweaks and creative touches to each one. After years of sitting in front of the CNC machine programming in parts to be made in the hundreds, hes excited to just cut and squish tubes and stick them together with badass tig welds.

    Over the years, FTW has built pretty special race bikes for fast people- John Tomac, Juli Furtado, Dave Cullinan, Brian Lopes, Missy Giove, Leigh Donovan, Myles Rockwell, Jimmy Deaton, Greg Oravetz, Davis Phinney, the Stockton brothers and lord knows who else have won big races on the national and world stage on his Works bikes. Its rad.

    Here at Spooky we just want to create a stable little company thats a whole mess of influences, references, ideas and situations, and one ever-growing family.
    mickey.denoncourt
    www.spookybikes.com
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    edoz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Good to see you here, Mickey. I remember wanting a Darkside so bad I could taste it, but being young and fairly poor it never happened. The closest thing I ever had was a Yeti from about 88 that was probably built during FTW's time there.

    I also remember working in a bike shop part time as my welding career was getting started and telling someone about Spooky. I went to the computer to bring up your website and the web address had been repurposed for porn ads. Pop-ups ensued, panic set in as a mom with a couple of little kids started to walk up and I finally had to pull the plug out of the wall. Good times, and it's great to see the name come back with someone who cares at the helm.
    Last edited by edoz; 04-03-2011 at 04:00 PM.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    I'm afraid to read that again in case my head explodes. Damn.
    FRAMEBUILDING PARTS FOR SALE!

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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Thanks for the history Mickey. Good luck with carrying on the brand. It's clear you have a lot of heart in it. So did I read you are pretty much going entirely custom? And do you have any idea what percentage of the builds will be road vs. mountain?
    Thanks again, Craig

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    Generalcuz is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Hey Mickey,

    After watching a racer hammer a Spooky CX bike at the New Belgium Cup this past fall, I am quite mesmerized and find myself gravitating to one later this year. Just some upcoming consumer feedback. Stories like this are what make me quite happy to pay extra to have a hand built bike.

    Cheers,

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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Mickey! Bad ass story! The whole time I kept thinking, "he's got to know or know of Leigh D". She's a bad ass.... I guess a ton of peeps know her but it seems a little odd because I grew up riding BMX in the OC with her and her little sis Kerri... and that's what I remember. Keep up the good fight! -Chris

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    tele is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    The force is strong in this one.

    Question for ya Mickey: what is your vision for success at Spooky business wise?

    Kevin

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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    mickey, great read.
    Moving toward custom steel? may have already been asked but is this the future of spooky 2.0?
    I know Al is more difficult but it is what set you apart from other brands and many eff builders.
    Hopefully you go back down that road because my supertouch would like a fellow in the future. Best riding cross bike.
    I stretched myself to buy that supertouch.
    best of luck to you
    David

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    Too Tall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    We love you man. Thanks for putting some of your thoughts in to print for all to see.
    Boss, talk to me about the relevance of contract BMX and Mtn. bikes built for export.
    Also, how do you feel about selling bikes that are re-branded? Is it all $$ in the till or
    does that take just another little piece of your heart now baby?

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    suspectdevice's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Craig+D,
    For the rest of this year the plan is to go made-to-order. After the design and engineering is done and the capital to start a production batch is amassed it still takes 90 to 150 days to build a batch of production bikes. If you look at the calender you'll see that won't give us a delivery time that really makes sense for the prime CX selling season.

    I certainly think more production bikes(29'r, Supertouch) will be on the table for 2012 though.

    My per-unit cost on a production frame is about a 1/3rd less than a made-to-order frame but my distribution system(i.e. ME) is pretty inefficient.
    One dude can only sell so many bikes in a given day, and more importantly to our customers, ship stuff on time, provide a level of after-sales support, etc that makes me happy and best represents the values of the brand.

    In other words- selling stock frames v. custom frames takes me about the same amount of time if I do the amount of fit work, shit-shooting and yarn spinning that I like to do. My margin ends up being about the same but the overall ticket price is larger so we clear more dollars that can be allotted to making me a happier and healthier individual. We've got excellent production capacity on the custom end and leadtimes that are only a few weeks. Capacity is scalable on the custom side as we can always recruit plenty of child labor to perform simple tasks as the order volume increases. There is no shortage of kids in the CT river valley that want to learn how to make bikes.
    Taking the capital that has been tied up in production bikes for the last two years and spreading it around to shore up the finances is the responsible thing to do.
    My primary goal for this year(after selling lots of individual people awesome bikes) is building and in some cases re-building a dealer base and solidifying relationships with distributors that we can bring forward to the 2012 selling season. Even though the margins are way lower, wholesaling frames works better for frames that you make in the hundreds if you have large blocks of pre-committed frames. Aging the inventory is a real killer and something that we need to prevent.

    In my ideal world we would have a large US distributor in the U.S. selling to dealers and smaller distributors on the other continents selling consumer direct giving me purchase orders large enough to have frames in constant production that would ship F.O.B. Portland. Sales on that scale would allow us to put our FS bikes into production. They are fully engineered, totally awesome and ready to roll- it's criminal that they aren't already out on the trail. Domestically made Split-Pivot bikes would sell in the thousands. I would go fucking crazy(ier) and probably straight-up die from the stress if I had to be involved with selling and after-sales support of those things.

    That being said, the way that we are handling the current production batch of bikes is going to work very well. We're taking deposits while the frames are in production. By the time delivery happens there will only be a handful of frames left from each size.
    It's a neat way to do stuff but we don't make much money off of the whole thing and the logistics of the whole operation are more complicated than I'd like. We also don't tie up all that much capital with that method, which is great considering that we don't have all that much to begin with!

    Cashflow!

    On the custom end of things we want to build as many bikes as we can out of both aluminum and steel.
    Aluminum is super important to me. If we get our custom production numbers up we will be able to convince the domestic aluminum importers to bring in more 7005 if we can commit to a significant amount of tubing and help to form a working group among other people interested in having aluminum available to help reduce the risk that the importers face when they bring in a material that has supposedly fallen out of favor in the domestic custom market. As it is right now there is barely anything available. In fact my last order just cleared out the entire inventory of a couple of my favorite tubes.

    Steel is rad. Consumers want it. We can turn it around a week quicker than 7005. There are lots of butted tubes available.

    What do I want Spooky to look like in 2 years? I want to make a decent living. I want to keep FTW knee deep in fun custom projects, and I want him to make lots of money doing it. I want there to be plentiful stock bikes out there to fill the gaping whole in the market for race-worthy domestic aluminum for every type of racing. I want to be able to have resources to identify talented athletes who can win national MTB championships and be a threat on a shoestring budget a la the John Parker days of Yeti.
    I'd like to be able to spend the loots more of my time working on grass-roots event promotion, Jr. Racing development and journalism.
    I love bikes so much- it's been nearly 20 years of obsession and dedication and a solid 16 years of my life dedicated to the ideals that underpin Spooky.
    I want my cut of it!
    mickey.denoncourt
    www.spookybikes.com
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    cardinal's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Hey thanks for sharing. It's yet another interesting and unique way into frame building as seen on Smoked Out.

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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Any plans for steel mtbs or maybe XC suspension bikes?
    Last edited by edoz; 04-04-2011 at 06:47 PM.
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    Any plans for steel mtbs or maybe XC suspension bikes?
    Steel MTB's? Like, production? There have already been plenty of custom steel mountainbikes that have moved through the shop.
    Production steel is a pretty silly thing to try to accomplish domestically They are a dime a dozen and I don't think we could bring anything new to the table except downtube stickers.
    MTB customers are in my experience really cheap. Because we powdercoat our frames we can already sell custom bikes for a few hundred bucks more than stock bikes and $600 less than a custom shop that has higher overhead and throws expensive paint on their bikes. I'd rather deal with custom buyers, who by default, understand and respect what we do.
    If someone gives me an order for a few dozen steel bikes, well yeah, for sure we'll make some

    At the very minimum a small production run= 25 frames of one size. Any less than that and you just have a bunch of custom bikes in the same size since setup time is where the cost of a frame comes from. 100 frames is where you really start saving money. Once you start machining and welding sub-assemblies you see a real reduction in your manufactured cost.
    Think of all the money that is tied up in raw materials alone....

    Some bikes, like slalom bikes, only need to come in one size, but once again steel slalom/dirtjump bikes are a dime a dozen (literally $100 a dozen from Vietnam).

    The most important question you need to ask yourself is "how is this product differentiated in the marketplace". A run of aluminum slalom bikes on the other hand would easily happen since there currently aren't any
    aluminum slalom/jump bikes made in the US. We can probably pre-sell an entire batch of them in a few days. Would the selling price support the time, labor and resources it takes to make a run of those bikes make sense financially? No. We'll probably end up making some though. We invented the genre after all!

    As far as FS XC race bikes goes- No. Do I want to make FS xc race bikes? Yes. When you do the market analysis for 4" XC bikes you quickly see that no one buys the damn things and if they do they are big weenies and want/think they need something that costs $10,000 and is made from plastic.

    Reality sucks!
    Last edited by suspectdevice; 04-04-2011 at 07:51 PM.
    mickey.denoncourt
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Mickey-

    this might be completely off the deep end but as a kid who grew up on a series of BMX bikes from Redline, Skyway, Profile, Hutch and CW I have to ask anyway...do you see any link between BMX and your design philosophy for road bikes?

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    suspectdevice's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    I didn't start riding bmx until I was in my mid-twenties but I tell ya what- bikes are bikes.
    Trail, mass projection, wheelbase, that's the only stuff that matters. There isn't a bike on earth thatyou don't drive from the hips. Everything is everything else, in other words...
    mickey.denoncourt
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes



    Getting ready to cash in on the Aero bike craze.
    mickey.denoncourt
    www.spookybikes.com
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    I thought I should respond to this question from Acotts that he posted on the front page:
    You majored in bike racing?
    Yes, yes I did.

    Here is an excerpt from the 5 thousand word "Smoked Out" that I originally wrote before ATMO alerted me that I needed to edit it down to 2 thousand words:
    ........
    When I chose a college the local racing scene was the deciding factor.

    I’d read about the Northampton/Amherst CX scene in Velonews and had seen some strong results of the Umass team in collegiate races. Once I visited the Valley I knew where I was going to go to school. I knew that I would have pros to train with. That was important to me. I knew that there were people who were trying to carve out a living from bike racing. That was important to me too.

    Hampshire College is expensive and unique. No majors, no grades. Imagine a masters program for little kids and you have the idea. I knew that Hampshire had a framebuilding course(that I never took). I knew that it had helped to incubate Merlin. I knew that they had a very strong program in entrepreneurship and innovation that had helped to spin off a few really cool ventures I knew that it was pretty progressive so I’d probably have no trouble getting laid.

    Because I was able to create my own course of study I majored in bike racing. It wasn’t a cop out by any means but it did allow me to document and analyse my training as my primary course of study. They also had great food in the cafeteria so that I could shovel in my 6000 calories a day.

    Because I had problems with chronic overtraining I chose to concentrate in physiology.
    From day one at Hampshire you are working in a laboratory. By the 3rd week of school I was designing an experiment to use electromyograhy to study muscle activation at different saddle heights. By the 4th week of school I was running VoMax tests. By the time I graduated I had worked on a few papers that made it to publication. I knew my shit when it came to anatomy and physiology front to back.

    Because I knew I would end up designing bikes and products I got heavily involved with adaptive design, ergonomics and a sprinkling of industrial design. I went to design collective meetings and helped people to develop their ideas into viable products. I never learned solidworks. I never machined anything. I was into the psychology, human factors and ergonomics of stuff, an idea guy.
    I fulfilled one of my first gen ed requirements by designing myself a cx bike for FTW to fab for me. I thought that was pretty rad.
    Another project was a pretty damn in depth paper on Major Taylor with all sorts of lefty antropological analysis.

    Because I wanted to coach I concentrated a lot of time on education courses specifically on teaching science to teenage girls in the inner city. I figured if I could reach people who are bombarded on all sides that sciences are for bald white men I could easily express things like rest and overcompensation to athletes.

    The people in the Valley bike scene are what drew me there- Especially the Umass team (UMBRC). They had a really strong pool of talent from DH racers to ‘cross racers.

    JD Bilodeau(Pioneer events), Steve Roszko(BikeReg), Adam Myerson(Cycle-Smart) and John Frey(Pioneer Results) had founded a club two years eariler. The Northampton Cycling Club(NCC) was their baby. Their passion for racing reminded me so much of Spooky. They supported the scene. They made jobs for themselves so that they could stay here instead of having to leave our bitchin’ bubble to find employment somewhere that actually has jobs.

    My focus turned more and more to coaching- inspired a whole hell of a lot by Myerson and John Verheul as well as my ongoing association with John Howard, personal experience and my fairly rigorous analysis of the scientific literature and ongoing discourse about training with power that was happening on the Internet at that time.
    It was the ‘cross (and advocacy for it) that landed me in the Valley.
    I don’t need to go into much detail but it’s the entrepreneurial spirit and community organisation of the bike racers in the around here that inspired me to keep moving forward on Spooky inspired projects.
    mickey.denoncourt
    www.spookybikes.com
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    suspectdevice's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Also- Here is a completely unrelated Bob Haro cartoon that I scanned from an old BMXaction! magazine.
    mickey.denoncourt
    www.spookybikes.com
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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    Mickey,

    I was checking some of your posts in the Velocipede salon and on Frank the welder blog. I see you are building an aero tube road bike, That sounds super cool, Could you tell me more about it, the tubing, weights ETC. that sounds like a new road bike for me!!

    By the way, it was great yesterday how we went through my new Darkside geometry. All this process has been excellent, I can wait to get my hands on my new frame.


    Jose.

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    Default Re: Spooky Bikes

    mickey-

    talk to me about the peoples pint. i was there once with eddieB and it was awesome. can you bring some to d2r2 pls?

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