American Rec’s move of its Isis brand (www.isisforwomen.com) from Burlington Vt. to Boulder, Colo., announced April 14, will be a slow transition – beginning this spring, and likely not wrapping up until October 2011, company officials told SNEWS® Friday morning.
Isis, which makes women’s outdoor apparel, employs 14 people in Burlington, and American Rec wanted to give employees time to make decisions, and to allow the completion of its fall 2012 product cycle before finalizing the move.
“We’re not sure who is coming out… some people have strong connections to the Burlington community,” said Bob Orlando, who will lead American Rec’s new apparel group of Isis and Sierra Designs Apparel in Boulder, and Royal Robbins in Modesto, Calif. There are about 70 employees in Boulder and 50 in Modesto.
Isis’ former owner and current president Carolyn Cooke told SNEWS she will not be making the move with the company she helped co-found in 1998. Cooke will help oversee the transition from Burlington, and then plans to depart once the move is complete this fall.
“At a certain point, as Isis becomes part of a larger organization, which will allow it grow and flourish, it’s a good time to make a change,” Cooke said. American Rec purchased Isis from Cooke and private investors in Jan. 2010.
Cooke told SNEWS that she will definitely remain involved in the outdoor industry after leaving Isis. She said her path could be similar to her co-founder of Isis, Poppy Gall, who left the company in 2009 and has gone on to start another outdoor-related venture.
Despite her upcoming departure, Cooke said she’s confident Isis will continue to have success.
“We’re committed to the handoff because we know there is a solid base for Isis to grow,” Cooke said.
Orlando said the Isis transition will correlate with some upcoming changes to American Rec’s sales-force structure. There will be more delineation between those selling company’s apparel brands (Isis, Sierra Designs Apparel and Royal Robbins) and those selling the company’s gear brands (Kelty, Sierra Designs Equipment and Slumberjack). The changes will bring greater expertise to each sector, but won’t be dramatic from an employee change standpoint, he said.
Orlando, who is also president of Royal Robbins, said that brand will remain in Modesto – partly because of its history, and partly because American Rec has its warehouse and distribution center there. American Rec is owned by St. Louis-based Kellwood Co., a larger apparel company, which is owned by private investment firm Sun Capital.
Upcoming for Isis in spring 2012 is a new “intimate apparel” line, which will focus on making women’s undergarments as technical as the brand’s other layers. Isis will continue to expand its warmer-weather, activewear with quick-drying technology for summer activities and paddle boarding.
In Boulder, women’s retailer Marily MacDonald with Outdoor Divas told SNEWS she will be sorry to see Cooke leave Isis later this fall, but she is thrilled have company moving its headquarters nearby.
Outdoor Divas (www.outdoordivas.com), which has a store in Boulder and Denver, signed Isis as one of its first brands when it opened, and the retailer has cross-marketed with the company on several occasions.
“We hope to work more closely with them on in-store events, gear reviews and women focused workshops,” she said. “Boulder is a mecca where these niche company’s can thrive, especially women-specific companies such as Skirt Sports, Sherpani, Women's Adventure and Shebeest.”
Isis will move into the same building as Sierra Designs, Kelty and Slumberjack in Boulder at 6235 Lookout Road. For the Isis employees who do make the move from Burlington to Boulder, they might feel more at home than they first thought – Boulder’s downtown Pearl Street pedestrian mall was designed by the same architect as Burlington’s Church Street.
-- David Clucas