Joe Boldan called the SNEWSÂ® offices last week and dropped a bombshell
in our laps -- After 15 years with Ex Officio, he's retiring, effective
the end of March.
"We have a phenomenal team here, and with Orvis there is structure here
that we never had before," says Boldan. "The company is in the best
shape ever and they've (Orvis) been running Ex O for a couple of years
now anyway. So the time is right for me to let the company go and move
on to another chapter in my life."
Boldan told us that he announced his plans for retirement to his
longtime business partner and co-founder, president and director of Ex
Officio, Rick Hemmerling, as well as the corporate heads at Orvis back
in October, giving them six months notice.
"Telling Rick was the toughest one," said Boldan. "We've been together a very long time."
Indeed. Boldan reminisced that the company started when he and
Hemmerling were going to launch a "better men's contemporary tops
business" and went to MAGIC (a major clothing industry tradeshow) to
present the line for the first time. There, they heard time and again
that the line was fantastic, but that the clothing industry really
didn't need another line with 20 others to choose from already.
Depressed, they headed for home. There, a guy came along from a major
company and asked them to knock off a fly fishing shirt for production.
Boldan remembers that he and Hemmerling looked at each other in shock
and wondered, "This is the best fly fishing has to offer? Heck, we can
do way better than that!" And, the Baja Plus shirt was born, launching
a business that managed to get listed three times on the Inc. 500 list
of one of America's fastest-growing privately held companies.
Of course, in perhaps the ultimate irony of all, Ex Officio was
launched because of a knock-off request and in the 15 years since, Ex
Officio has been knocked off more times than the American dollar has
Hemmerling told us -- coincidentally from MAGIC 2002 -- that Boldan's
retirement is a "Very emotional thing for me because we don't know
anything else except each other in the business. I am glad for Joe
realizing that there is another phase to his life he needs to look at
because it creates a momentous step for the company and for me too."
While Hemmerling will continue to focus on product development and
production, Ex Officio will be bringing back a man who was their CFO
prior to the company's acquisition by Orvis in August 2000.
"Effective March 18, Bob Carroll will be joining the company again,
this time as our VP of Operations," Hemmerling told us. "Bob's been
working on freelance accounting work for us since leaving and loves our
brand. With his direction, we will become much more financially
accountable here in Seattle, and that is essential for the growth of
our company now."
We still have a shirt that Boldan and Hemmerling practically sewed to
our backs with a plea to test "the best adventure and outdoor shirt
you've ever worn" when they were first launching the brand -- then in a
tiny 10-by-10 booth. The buttons all fell off that shirt the first year
-- it was a prototype -- but we didn't care. It was, amazingly, the
best outdoor shirt we'd ever worn, and we've been Ex Officio fans ever
since. It's a great company because it has been run by great people we
are proud to call friends. Ex O will only continue to grow and, with
Hemmerling now focused on design, look out world. As for what Boldan
will do next, suffice it to say, this isn't the last you've heard from
him in the outdoor realm.