Extreme sport company is based in San Pedro
Dennis Lim MORE SAN PEDRO
With a dry climate and nearby beaches, San Pedro isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking about snowboarding.
But one of the largest snowboard companies in the country calls this maritime city home. 686, a leading maker of clothing and gadgets for the extreme sport, has its headquarters in a nondescript San Pedro office.
Found in more than 1,000 snowboarding stores in the world, the company distinguishes itself with innovative offerings. One of its newest inventions is a belt that doubles as a screwdriver — a handy tool for tightening loose bindings that keep feet planted on the board.
The company also has pioneered the use of leather and fur in its coats and has hired artists to imprint designs on its coats and other outerwear products. It has even experimented with jackets with retro designs, Hello Kitty imprints and collaborations with manufacturers of other snowboarding gear to combine their products.
But why would a snowboarding company base itself more than two hours from the closest snow slopes?
“I like its rawness,” said Michael West, the company’s founder and president. “San Pedro has this street edge to it which is part of what we’re looking to create in our clothes. We want that mix of outdoor and street appeal, because snowboarding is a mix of those two mediums.”
San Pedro, where the company has been based since 1999, is also close to West’s Manhattan Beach home.
An avid skateboarder and snowboarder, West started 686 in 1992, while completing his MBA at USC. He started selling T-shirts and hats but moved to outerwear as the business grew.
By emphasizing snowboarding’s young, edgy side, West hopes to make 686 a year-round company similar to the way surfing companies have made their clothing popular beyond summer.
A small company with 50 employees — 20 in its San Pedro office — 686 tries to live the lifestyle it sells. Company trips to snow resorts around the world aren’t unusual, and jumping out of a helicopter and snowboarding down a remote mountain have been part of previous trips.
“Everything we do is rider influenced,” said Brice McTague, 686’s marketing director. “When we go on these trips, we all wear 686 stuff. Everyone gives their input, and we always ask for input from our customers.”16moreSPORTSSATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 2005eventsUPCOMINGMoreInfo
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