There was a bittersweet flavor to the hippy-era themed Sierra Designs farewell gathering to Berkeley alumni on May 9. It was sweet to see old friends and reminisce about the old days, but at the same moment sad to witness the end of an era as the company plans its move to Boulder, Colo. For 38 years, Sierra Designs had been located in San Francisco's East Bay, first in Point Richmond, then in Berkeley, then Oakland, back to Berkeley, and finally in Emeryville.
The two most important figures on SD's long history, founders Bob Swanson and George Marks, were at the gathering in life-size photos but not in person. Swanson was in the Spanish Sierra Madre on vacation, while Marks was busy with work at his contract manufacturing company in China.
But Kimmy Galyan, the second person hired by Swanson and Marks to work at the then-fledgling Point Richmond company, was there. She still puts in a full day at a sewing machine only now down the road at Mountain Hardwear in Richmond.
Along with Galyan, the first 10 years of SD's history was represented by Henry Gruchacz, now of Erickson Outdoors; Mountain Hardwear's Paul Kramer, his wife Bonnie; Jim Gavin; Steven Langmaid and Bob Woodward.
On hand to say farewell were Vaude's Sam and Guntrum Jordan, former SD president and now Mountain Hardwear chief Jack Gilbert and his new wife; legendary tent pole maker Frank Tehan; uber-rep Larry Harrison; Patagonia's Rich Hill; Erickson Outdoor's Mark Erickson and daughter Emily; adventurer and lecturer Arlene Blum; former TNF president Hans Jones; longtime SD and now Mountain Hardwear employee Roberta Hernandez; ex-Kelty, now freelance, designer Mike Sheerer, and former Decker's exec Peter Benjamin.
In a rousing speech before the taking of a group photo, Harrison paid tribute to current SD President Sally McCoy for her years of service and for being such a bright and compassionate leader. In turn, McCoy toasted Swanson and Marks for creating a company that would come to mean so much to so many.
And then with the strains of the Grateful Dead, the Youngbloods and every other band of the â€˜70s playing in the background, SD left Berkeley in style.