Steve Crandall and I met briefly in 1993 when he worked for my dad at Pete’s, one of the last remaining neighborhood grocery stores here in Ithaca, NY. Steve stocked coolers which mostly meant hanging out in the back drinking strawberry milk. If I remember correctly, that’s the same year Steve moved to Indiana, into the famed 1201 house, and he gave me a ‘Breakdancing Fat Bald Men’ t-shirt on his way out of town.
Fast forward through 26 years: FBM went from making t-shirts and sticker packs to a full blown machine shop that builds kick ass bikes from scratch. Steve has remained an integral part, and ever creative force, in the rollercoaster that is running any small business, in this case FBM. He’s had 10 life times worth of adventures, moved from Indiana to Ithaca, traveled like a vagabond, maybe lived in Ohio, and eventually parked a bus in Richmond, VA where he really seems to like it. In that time, and in the midst of a couple of other careers, I’ve built sticker packs and sold t-shirts for FBM at contests, worked as their secretary for brief stint in the late 90’s, baked cakes, housed 2000 wayward BMXers, and made one very weird FBM ad for RIDE magazine back when magazines used to exist.
Steve and I have remained good friends, both living our own weird outsider life a few states apart. Steve as an artist / writer / BMX rider in Virginia or wherever he happens to end up next. Me as a baker turned barber that’s restoring a once decrepit old motel called Grayhaven in Ithaca, NY with my husband, Mark. (I wrote more about my friendship with Steve in an old, not quite but almost abandoned, blog a few years back. It’s HERE if you’d like to read it.)
I guess you could say that FBM and Grayhaven were born to collaborate. The happiest moments of my life have been found in the freedom of pedaling around on my bike, and traveling both alone and with loved ones exploring new and old places with open eyes and an open mind. For me, FBM embodies much of this sentiment, as does Mark and I’s latest adventure: painstakingly restoring an old motel on 11 beautiful acres called Grayhaven.
People often comment to Mark and I that we’re really tied down with Grayhaven, or about how much work it must be. While both of these things are partly true, the larger and much more important piece for us is the desire to create, and in essence recapture, some of the very best parts of driving around and exploring the US. Offering people the experience of pulling into a new town, and staying somewhere that captures the spirit and uniqueness of that place. In a sense we are pushing against the sameness that most hotels offer. Grayhaven won’t feel like every homogenous room and lobby you’ve ever been in. For folks that want the homogeneity that’s fine – there’s plenty of it out there for you, in fact there are 20 places right here in Ithaca, it’s just not what you’ll find at Grayhaven. Similarly, there are probably 100 bike companies that offer the exact same bike, made in the same factory, but branded with a different company’s name. That’s not what you’ll find at FBM.
Steve has been a huge supporter and cheerleader for Mark and I during this motel restoration project. Offering an extra hand when visiting for FBM business, but most importantly, offering words of support and encouragement when the trials of running a small business (and following your heart) start to become too heavy to carry.
We’re happy to celebrate 26 years with FBM this week. Hope you’ll join us for a BBQ and movie here at Grayhaven Motel on Friday night, and we hope you’ll swing by the machine shop on Saturday for a tour of a real mom and pop bike company living a little bit of the human dream here in Upstate NY.
XOX – Alexis