We arrived at the Garneau headquarters just outside of Quebec City past 7pm on a Wednesday night. We had come from the cycling Crits around the corner to cheer on the participants suffering through a rainy night with temperatures hovering below 10 degrees Celsius. The only vehicle left outside the Garneau headquarters was that of William Garneau, the new General Manager and son of Louis Garneau. His work ethic clearly comes from his father, and being there well after working hours is a great representation of the Garneau company that I came to discover.
The first impression I get as I walk through doors the next morning is that these people eat, drink and breath cycling. Everyone I meet is ‘core’ and (almost all) have calves that could cut glass. The next thing I realize, after meeting every department, is that there are a lot of staff that have been with Garneau for well over 10 years, a great sign that this business is well-loved by its employees.
The final obvious sign that Garneau is a core brand in the cycling world is based on the amount of bicycles crammed in every nook and corner. People ride here. I learned it the hard way when I joined Mr. Garneau and some fellow staff on a lunch ride. Welcome to Garneau I thought, as I tried to keep down my snacks. They play hard here, and they work hard, clearly traits learned from Louis Garneau himself.
I had the privilege of touring the headquarters/factory with Marie-Andrée, head of Marketing, who has been with the company for 20 years. Almost everything is done in-house, from designing the entire collection, to making prototypes, to creating new technologies, to testing products, you get the picture. Being able to control everything is probably why Garneau, a proudly Canadian company is now one of the biggest cycling accessory companies in the world.
I loved seeing the passion of each employee that took time to talk to me. I met designers working on next year’s collection (including Mr. Garneau’s daughter) and then visited the prototype room where staff were creating pieces to be tested by Mr. Garneau himself. I met the person in charge of snowshoes and another of the cycling footwear, and both blew me away with their love, knowledge and passion for the products. I moved on to the helmet department and saw 3D printed helmet mockups and even their laboratory where they test helmets for strength (even though two other agencies already test them).
And then came the Dream Factory, where they customize bikes with unique paint jobs. Literally a kid in a candy store I watched as a painter sprayed a new custom paint job on a customer’s much-awaited bike. Garneau is renowned for their quality and fabrics and custom products is a big part of their business. Mr. Garneau is an artist by training and he wants you to be able to customize as much as you can, helmet, jersey, bibs and bicycle.
I also had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Garneau himself. He is a competitor through and through and had a lot to say about his company and the future of the cycling industry. Everything that the business stands for comes from this intense man, and all I can see in the future for them is bigger, better things.