Hello, my name is Marty Walsh and Iím the owner of Geekhouse bikes. I decided to go all-out with this and write a fairly extensive history. Sorry if this is more of a novel than a threadÖ
I was bit by the bike bug very early on. When I was thirteen I got my first mountain bike, and I fell in love. My bicycle was a new sort of freedom for me, I could be across town in 20 minutes all on my own, and with everything I needed in my backpack. Since then, bikes have been my life. The same sentiment carries through to today. Iím never happier than when Iím riding with everything I could need on my back.
As soon as I was 16 I started working at my local bike shop, Landryís. It was the mid 90ís and I was a huge fan of local companies like Fat City, Merlin, Rygen, and later on Indy Fab and Spooky. I started racing XC at around the same age and later got into racing down hill eventually qualifying for Semi-Pro, before an injury ended that form of racing for me. I continued working at Landryís through college and after graduating became a manager of one of their stores. I was 23 at the time and running a retail store was a lot to handle, especially for being fairly young.
Around this time a buddy and I started joking about starting our own bike company. The name Geekhouse came to me in a dream. The term ďBike GeekĒ was something I always identified with. And for a lot of years growing up, it was never ďcoolĒ to be really into bicycling. At that time Geekhouse really was more of a dream than an idea, but itís when I started thinking about it.
After managing a shop for a couple years, and still dreaming about making bikes, I decided retail was not for me and I started looking for other jobs. I ended up getting hired by Super Innovative Concepts (SIC) a producer of mountain bike components. Right when I started at SIC my boss said to me. ďMarty, I just want to design. If you want to run a company, then go ahead.Ē I thought it was a joke at the time, but it was actually how things ended up. Working at SIC taught me a lot about running a small business including managing employees while learning bookkeeping and accounting. I also got to see a larger view of the industry, including exhibiting at Interbike three years in a row, attending Eurobike & the Tai Pei show, and visiting Taiwan three times to oversee our manufacturing there.
I started Geekhouse, not necessarily because I wanted to make something better, but because I wanted to be part of creating something that I loved.
The original frames were just sketches on napkins while working at the bike shop. This eventually led to working with mechanical engineers to create CAD drawings, then sending out the designs to Brew Bikes in North Carolina. We did a couple batches there, before I moved production to Taiwan. This was a natural progression since I already had relationships in Taiwan from SIC Components. But I quickly decided Taiwan and mass-production was not something that made me feel good about what I was doing. Frames had to be purchased in batches of 100qty, and I was just not in a position where I could really afford to make multiple models. Nor was this model something that I was compelled to pursue as a lifetime career. Carrying a heavy inventory of multiple models, and not being able to easily change designs seemed like a very large liability to me.
So after a lot of thought, I got the idea in my head that I wanted to start building all the frames one by one, in my own shop, all by hand. Though I had years at the bike shop under my bet Iíd never had a hand in fabrication. So I started looking into frame building classes. I left SIC in 2003 to pursue my dream of making Geekhouse a real full time gig. It was a little crazy at the time, but I knew itís what I wanted to do more than anything else in life. All I needed now was a teacher.
Mike Flannigan of ANT Bikes was that teacher. The way I first got into contact with Mike was by simply picking up the phone and calling him out of the blue. Our first conversation went a little like this. ďHey, I was wondering if you could teach me how to build bikes?Ē His response was an adamant ďNO, I DONíT DO THAT!Ē So much for that idea, I thought at the time. This was only a couple yearís after Mike had left IF and I started seeing more and more amazing bikes he had built on the streets of Somerville. It was really important to me that in learning the craft of frame building, that I had the right teacher. What really appealed to me was the idea of a sort of Zen lineage of frame building. I wanted that mind-to-mind transmission of something that started with one of my heroís, Chris Chance and ended with Mike one of the original founders of Independent Fabrication. It might sound like a silly idea, but it meant a lot to me to be part of that Boston tradition I loved and still love so very much.
So I kept pestering Mike. We still joke about it today; I was the kid that just wouldnít go away. After a while Mike came to me and said heíd been thinking about it and he only needed help at ANT with two things. If I knew how to do one of these things, he would teach me to build frames. One was powder coating, which I hadnít a clue how to do. And the other one, the other one was bookkeeping. That I knew. I spent the next year and a half in Mikeís shop helping with all the bookkeeping and cleaning up of office work, and he taught me how to TIG weld and the machining necessary to miter tubes. He even went so far as to help me build a jig, and the mitering fixtures one would need. Mike also originally set me up in a little shop next to his Water Street shop in the small New England town of Holliston. Iíve never quite met someone like Mike Flannigan. He went so far out of his way to help and teach me, his kindness is something that Iíll never fully be able to repay. To this day he is one of my good friends, and will always be that one great teacher that you meet only once in a lifetime. For this I am forever in his debt.
While I loved Mike and ANT, I always knew that I wanted to be out on my own. And it was always my goal to be building frames inside the city limits of Boston. In January of 2008, I found a 1000 sq ft garage right in Allston, a neighborhood of Boston. The garage was in a commercial-residential neighborhood right out the outskirts of the Harvard University expansion into lower Allston. It had been empty for seven years, was run down and disgusting. It was perfect.
Leaving ANT was bittersweet, but it was something that I felt I needed to do. For the next few years I have still helped out Mike with bookkeeping whenever I could. And actually because bookkeeping had worked so well there I also started offering my services around town. This led me to Seven Cycles where I worked as a bookkeeper for a little less than a year. Bookkeeping at Seven taught me a lot about running a larger bicycle fabrication shop. Itís also where I met Ian Sutton from Icarus Frames, and Bryan Hollingsworth from Royal H Cycles. These guys went in with me on the new shop space for the first two years, before expanding to their own space in Somerville.
After the first year in the shop, I was still doing bookkeeping and accounting 30-40 hours a week for a variety of businesses around Boston. At the same time I was pursuing Geekhouse at an additional 40 hours a week. One day I started looking at borrowing enough money to buy much needed equipment. I came upon the City of Boston website where I found a program through the BLDC (Boston Local Development Corporation). And after six months of meetings and business plans, I got a loan for enough to purchase many of the machines I needed to be a fully supported shop. Since I got that loan Iíve been full time at Geekhouse.
2011 Marks our fourth year in the Geekhouse Shop. Over the past three years it started with three builders working on their own companies. To now, where Geekhouse occupies the space itself with three full time guys. It was never my goal to be a solo builder; itís not Marty Walsh Cycles for a reason. Iíve had help from countless individuals in the Boston community to get this going. Over the past two years Iíve had immense help from Brian Kelly, now moving on to Indy Fab in NH. Also, Mike Salvatore has been invaluable. And most recently Brad Smith and Gregory Ralich have joined the full time crew, with Dan St. Germain doing all of our graphics work. I really love all these guys, and I feel truly lucky to have them working with me every day. Iím going to be 32 years old this year and Iíve been working in the bike industry for 16 years now, exactly half of my life.
Growing up in the bike industry and having countless interactions with people, one thing that Iíve always tried to live by is to never be pretentious. Whether our customers are buying their 11th custom frame, or if this is there first bike, we are here to help and inform them to the best possible bike they can have, without judgements. A motto that weíve been throwing around in the shop is ďMake it yoursĒ. In a small business like ours we have this really close connection with people that you just donít get in other industries. I really love this about what we do, and I still wake up every morning excited to get to the shop and start my day.
So, thatís where Iím going to end it for now. Iím really excited about the projects weíre working on for 2011, specifically NAHBS coming the end of Feb. We have a great crew, we have a lot of fun, and weíre making the best bikes we possibly can.
Happy New Year everyone!