Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on October 7th, 2011 at 11:29 am
(Photos: Zen Bicycle Fabrication)
The (somewhat mysterious) new O.E.M.* bicycle frame manufacturing operation we reported on last week has officially opened for business and released a statement with more information about their company.
industry veteran, co-owns
the company with his wife Jen.
Zen Bicycle Fabrication is owned by 43-year-old David Woronets and and his wife Jen Woronets. The couple lives with their three dogs in Gaston (near Forest Grove) on the back side of Hagg Lake, with road and mountain bike riding right outside their door.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Woronets shared that he’s the former production manager at Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles. The Woronets have also announced that the entire production staff from Ellsworth’s Vancouver production facility is joining them at Zen.
Ellsworth, founded in 1991, is respected in the industry for their high-quality mountain bikes. While they’ve expanded into cyclocross and even a city bike in recent years, full-suspension mountain bikes remain their bailiwick. The company has always made their frames in the U.S. and they brought fabrication in-house around 2003.
“With the lead times that have doubled overseas and costs going up… By the time you ship 50 bikes from Taiwan it gets pretty expensive.”
— David Woronets
In 2008, Mr. Woronets became production manager. In January of this year, he says he approached company founder Tony Ellsworth with the idea to buy the fabrication division. The resulting deal ended up with the Woronets’ acquiring not just the Ellsworth production team but all their equipment as well. Today, Ellsworth and Woronets remain strong business partners and Zen Bicycle Fabrication proudly counts Ellsworth as one of their first customers.
“Through this partnership,” reads the statement, “Ellsworth will continue to offer the quality bicycle frames for which the company is known.” And Ellsworth says, “It has been a great relationship and I’m excited to continue supporting David in his new endeavor.”
Zen has also unveiled its nine-person team of “passionate industry veterans and riders who share the common goal to fill the demand for quality American made bicycle frames.”
Mr. Woronets thinks his team can fill the sweet spot in American bike frame production. He also knows first-hand that the demand is there. During his time at Ellsworth, Woronets told me, he’d got to Interbike (the major U.S. bike industry trade show) and have several people ask if he could make their frames. Conditions with overseas production also play into Zen’s favor, he says.
“With the lead times that have doubled overseas and costs going up, I think we’re definitely coming closer to the mark of Taiwan production when it comes to small to medium production runs,” he told me via phone last week. “By the time you ship 50 bikes from Taiwan it gets pretty expensive.”
Zen’s “sweet spot” according to Woronets, is about 50-150 bikes at a time. The facility can make about 300 frames a month at its current capacity, but Woronets says that number could easily increase with the addition of another shift or two.
Woronets confirmed today that they’ve signed a lease on a factory space in the Mississippi/Albina neighborhood near N. Interstate Avenue. They move in mid-November.
(*Zen does original equipment manufacturing, also known as, O.E.M. This means they make frames for other brands.)