Posted April 2, 2009 in Oxx Tales by Jim Markel
Here in part 3 of a Developing Flexibility for your Travel Style, Red Oxx CEO Jim Markel checks out the Big Apple touring the famous museums, riding the subway and testing out the Sky Train Convertible carry-on Bag.
The diversity of the Red Oxx luggage line has been increasing as the years go by. The direct model has allowed us to listen to our customers and make a variety of travel bags and travel luggage accessories that make traveling and everyday life easier. While our Air Boss is still a major success we were getting some feedback that a change or even a new bag was necessary. Early attempts at changing the Air Boss were a complete failure, so we wiped the slate clean and started with a fresh perspective.
First order of business was to consult our friend Doug Dyment over at Onebag.com. His minimalistic approach to traveling suits our build style and travel philosophy well. His favorite bag is the Air Boss but when I explained women were having a tough time with the shoulder strap only carry aspect he agreed that a new design might be in order. Seems that managing the kids, cell phone and a double mocha required an extra set of hands. While our C-Ruck has been popular with the ladies for quite some time they now needed a good way to pack something besides casual clothes.
The Sky Train was envisioned as that one bag carry-on that could transition from the air ports of the world to the trains of Europe. An increasing number of travelers are ditching the checked luggage scene and going strictly carry-on. While this can cause some trepidation, it is all in how you plan, pack and execute your travels. The ability to switch from shoulder carry to back pack has made this versatile bag design one of the hottest products in our lineup.
Since introduction in the fall of 2007 we have sold out every production run. As we have hired and trained new staff our capacity has increased to the point that I could finally get one for myself. The old saying that the cobbler’s kids have no shoes is true on some level. Our customers come first and sometimes that means I have to wait for a bag. Well good things do come to those who wait. Still, with runs on the bright colors I selected the Forest green and my trusty Olive colored Gator, Khaki Tri-fold and a Travel Tray in Iris.
As you can imagine living here in Montana is about as Polar opposite as you can get to living in New York City. I was intrigued by their version of modern life and how millions of people live in such close proximity. One day I was cruising through the Netflix site and spotted the Ric Burns documentary. As the weeks rolled by and the segments would appear I would sit and relish the details of how this mighty city came to be. So much of what America is and what it may become has, in one way or another, been part of the story of New York.
Sitting in my office talking with one of our corporate customers in Mid Town I expressed my interest in what it’s like. "Well if you ever get to the city, I’ll buy you a steak." I jokingly replied "I would deliver his Oxx Master Bronze in person"… if he bought enough Red Oxx Gear. Life has the ability to fulfill the offhand remark if you’re not careful, but in the back of my mind I welcomed a chance to experience the city.
Now, standing in the pickup zone of La Guardia waiting for my prearranged car I felt the damp chill off the river. Not really knowing what to expect for weather I packed my Filson oilskin in the outer compartment of the Sky Train. I quickly extracted my overcoat and rolled the collar up against the bitter wind. Most of the major hotels were booked for the marathon. When you can find them nothing beats staying at a bed and breakfast. The immediate connection to the community and dealing with the owner of the inn is a rare thing today.
Located in Lower Manhattan, Nicolena’s was going to be my base of operations as I explored the concrete jungle. Her place has such a low profile that you literally feel like it’s your apartment. After a quick explanation of the door lock procedure she pointed me to the nearest subway entrance. I had a dinner engagement at The Palm in Midtown and it was going to be tight on arriving on schedule.
Moving through the early evening rush, I catch fleeting glimpses of everyday New York life. Each soul making the rounds in the subterranean world of mass transit as the rivers of money swirls all around them. From the private equity firms located deep in the central nervous system or pawn shops on the surface. Moving ever closer to these streams of currency is what brings these people together. The very ground trembles with the movement of the multitudes as they move about their daily business. 400 years has seen the rise of one of the world’s greatest cities on these shores. A new wilderness exists here now, one that has a natural beauty of its own.
The Red Oxx Corporate Program has always specialized in taking care of the small to medium sized businesses. With our ability to make smaller production runs, we can custom match and embroider our whole product line with a level of personalization and quality not found today. Dealing mostly with closely held companies has been an area of the business that continues to surprise me.
Coming in contact with the entrepreneurial community at large is always a learning experience for both companies. For customers who make an aggregate purchase over $50,000, the Oxx Master bronze is the ultimate thanks from the crew in Montana. While it’s not necessary to purchase that many units at once, we can easily handle the volume. For shorter runs of 10-24 we need around 30 days notice to make the run.
Emerging from the subway I am only a block from the restaurant and after getting faked out by a competitor’s sign, I finally make my appointment for the day. I traveled a fair distance for a steak. I had been people watching the whole way as I traversed the country. It was time give it a rest and rejoin the human race with a great steak and stimulating conversation. Making my way back to the subway I boarded the first train heading towards City Hall. Not the swiftest move as I ended up in visiting Brooklyn well past midnight.
Navigating the city was going to be a challenge. Cutting out in the early morning light I had the whole day ahead of me before my interview with Smart Money Magazine. I had run across their publication while doing some online reading. Noticing they just happened to be headquartered in New York I decided to make contact and they graciously invited me over. Cinching down my laces I set out across the city on foot winding my way along the sunny side of the street soaking in the morning warmth. Making my way to the Guggenheim, I was hitting my stride when it was time to take a minute and explore the visual arts.
My next stop was the Metropolitan museum of art. Time was starting to get away from me so back on the street for a quick hot dog and street jazz music. Wiping the mustard away and slipping the performers some cash I, set out for the address on the paper. Figuring the grid worked one way when it actually works another, I’d neglected to review basic information about the city. Still, plenty of time and a detour allows for more roaming along the way. After what amounted to a 4 mile circle, I finally arrive at my appointment on time by mere seconds.
After my interview I boarded the subway and was pressed in by huge crowds all decked out for Halloween. A party atmosphere infects the car as ever more colorful characters pile in. Jokes and short comments fly around as I spy a young lady with her blow up doll dressed as a twin. Aspiring hip hop artists busting out some impromptu riffs while at each stop we pick up another Joker.
After ditching my Gator bag at the Bed and Breakfast, I set my nose for finding a good bite to eat. Max’s was packed with laughing and smiling patrons. The rich smell of roasted garlic and red sauce jolted my taste buds as they quickly made a seat for me at the bar. Attentive service and a great meal made for the perfect ending of a truly wonderful day.
Or so I thought; before long I’m back on the subway heading to Times Square. After checking out the Miss Kitty store, I’m on information overload and seek the refuge of one of the theaters. Maybe a little big screen time would be just the ticket to unwinding from the last 48? Just around the corner from Nicolena’s is the Cosmopolitan Café located on West Broadway. The espresso there is something akin to black tar heroin for lovers of the bean. A European styled breakfast and some welcoming conversation for the wayward traveler.
This neighborhood had been in the center of the 911 attacks with the building site only a few blocks away it was time to pay my respects. I skirted my way past the massive gap where the buildings once stood, having a hard time wrapping my mind around the scale of the site.
The walk to the ferry for Ellis Island leaves some time to quietly reflect on why things like terrorism and bitterly opposed ideologies have been on a collision course for decades. The idea of change in the world is something that fundamentalists see as a direct challenge to their power. Once people entered this country through the gates of Ellis Island in search of a new life, now it sits as a relic to an age where borders mattered. Technology and the transportation age have eroded these barriers and are bringing the world into closer contact with itself. World trade is at the center of this open exchange of goods, services and more importantly ideas.
Getting to know our customers from around the world has been one of the greatest rewards here at Red Oxx. We are always excited to hear from a far away place and sometimes imagine what it’s like to be there. I’m sure making contact with a tiny company in Montana is a treat for them as well.
Still I wonder at times how this all came about so far from where it started and where it may eventually lead. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known." ~ Final sentence of "A Tale of Two Cities."