When you need to hire a new sales rep in the bike industry, my favorite method was to call the good shops in the area and ask who they like dealing with. “Who treats you right?” I’d ask. You sign a rep because of the relationships they have with the retailers. Cynics might say that you’re buying (or renting) their relationships with the dealers. And, in many ways, it’s like the role of your broker when you’re shopping for a new house: on the surface it may seem like they’re working for you, the buyer, but they’re officially representing (and getting paid by) the seller.
Back in 2000, as national sales manager for a previous employer, I was in need of a new rep in the Illinois area. “You want Larry the Legend,” was the response I got from the most of the shops I called. Over the years people who knew well would joke that he was a “Legend in his own mind’” but he truly was a great rep for us, became a good friend and he seemed to be universally respected by the stores he served in Chicago and the Midwest. (Even though he loved to poke fun at his neighbors to the north in Wisconsin…)
Over the years and since I’ve been at Interbike, I’d call him occasionally to chat about the industry as he drove his territory. He was never shy about voicing his opinion or sharing the criticisms or comments he’d been hearing from retailers about a particular issue. He was opinionated (boy was he opinionated!), but always reasonable in a discussion.
Thinking about times I had spent with him, I remember working with him in 2000 at his booth at the Chicago Bike Show. It was a consumer event at the Rosemont Convention Center outside Chicago where the old CABDA show used to be. As a rep for Sinclair Imports and Profile back then, he had the coolest booth at the show with lots of great high end and Euro road brands like Campagnolo and DeRosa. His exhibit was always one of the most popular at the show.
I also remember that he loved that Merlin he’s on in this photo. Back at that show he was proud of the Profile fork he had just installed on it since it was one of the first all carbon models and crazy light for the time.
As is always the case when someone you know passes away, you realize that you didn’t stay in touch with them enough. I last spoke with Larry about 3 months ago looking for his take on show dates and location (he always lobbied for Chicago, of course) and I was looking forward to more discussions on the subject with him. I’m glad that I was able to connect with him recently after a few years of only really speaking to him at Interbike each year. We’ll miss him and his insight. Rest in peace, Larry.
You can read his obituary and leave a note here.
Here are some of the brands that I know of that he represented over the years: Sinclair Imports, Profile, Sportworks, Shimano, Pearl Izumi, Speedplay, Lone Peak Bags, Haro, Spinergy, Serfas, and Yakima.
(I borrowed the photo above from another blog and I’m not sure who took it originally, but it’s the only one of Larry I could find. I like that it shows him with his bike.)