Dan Cruikshank started Cedaero as a sister company to Spokengear Cyclery and Cedar Coffee Company in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Now turning 5 years old, we chat with Cedaero to learn how it all came together and what challenges they've overcome.
Interview with Dan Cruikshank:
You're 5 years into Cedaero. What inspired you to build a bike bag company?
Forgive my rambling, but that’s a long story. I’ve come to know that I’m blessed with a mind that works like an entrepreneur. I love to tinker with things. I can’t stop thinking about what products and services I would want for myself, and how can I offer them to everyone. Back in 1985 I was on a canoe trip deep into Quetico Provincial Park north of the Boundary Waters with my friend Jeff Knight. The idea for Granite Gear was born from the spark of an idea around the campfire that night. Over the next 28 years it was always like an adventure to figure out the next business hurdle to overcome. We expanded from canoe packs to ultralight backpacking, as well as packs for the US Special forces. Jeff and I built Granite Gear into a brand we were both proud of, and wound up selling the company in 2014.
I looked back with fondness on the early years of brand building with Granite Gear. I wanted to build another brand from the ground up, taking all I’d learned and applying it to a new company. I’ve always been into biking. Ever since I was a kid, the bicycle gave me freedom and joy like nothing else in my life. I’ve toured around Lake Superior, and I’ve commuted by bike for many years. So it was natural that I wanted to make packs for cycling. I had a few ideas. At that time all the bike pack makers were doing pretty much the same thing and I figured I could make something a little different than what was out there. Then the entrepreneur in me took over and I thought it would be great to have a bike shop as well in our small town of Two Harbors. Also a great coffee shop. After a couple of years of planning and building we opened Spokengear Cyclery, and Cedar Coffee Company on Memorial Day in 2016.
The plan was that Cedaero would be phase 2. Over the next few months I moved all the sewing and cutting machines from my home garage/ sewing studio to the back room behind the bike shop where I’d been tinkering and scheming and I hired Karl Mesedahl - a master at tinkering himself - to help me build the Cedaero Brand. I had a few orders already, and had developed the concepts for several packs including custom bolt-on frame packs, and we delved into steady production 5 years ago.
The synergy of having the 3 Brands under one roof is awesome. We have been building a community around bikes, coffee and adventure here.
Looking back so far, what are you most proud of that Cedaero has accomplished?
The products are the obvious thing we are proud of. With each new product we strive to create a durable, unique, colorful and functional piece that will accompany you on so many adventures! We want these packs to function flawlessly so you can focus on the ride.
Beyond the products themselves, I’m most proud of the team I’ve assembled around here. Having great people is the name of the game, and it all starts with that. The people I work with just "get it” when it comes to having fun and building a brand at the same time. It sure is a lot easier to go to work with folks you care about and trust.
The conversations in the shop range from serious production problem solving to “What should we have for lunch on S'mores Friday?". Sometimes the conversations go totally random like “OMG we should call that cat on the towel Slender James” which is a completely different story ;). If you want to join in the shenanigans download your photo to the Cedaero Adventure Team link on our website. https://cedaero.com/pages/cedaero-adventure-team-1
What were some of the bumps you ran into along the way?
Well, it’s not really an adventure until something unexpected happens, right? COVID 19, Bike Boom, delays in the supply chain, to name a few. That’s where the team gets down to business and figures it out so we can get on with doing what we do best. When you live with an adventurous spirit the bumps don’t slow you down too much.
Two Harbors seems like a wonderful place to HQ a bike bag company; what's the land and the community like up by you?
Well there are the bugs, lot of biting flies and ticks. And the cold. Really cold. Seriously, don’t even think about moving here! All that stuff keeps the riff-raff out. The rest of us who can get past the bugs and the cold enjoy the connection with the boreal forest, the big lake, the Superior highlands backcountry and community of hearty locals.
Our building sits on 6 acres in a cedar grove. We can ride a few minutes out of town and be on remote gravel and B roads for days. One of the current projects we are working on is building a bikepacking campsite just 8 miles form the shop on county land. It’s going to be on a river in a grove of ancient White Pines. It will be the first bikepacking campsite in the region. We plan on making a network of these sites around Lake County. We'll keep you informed as it progresses.
You've done some fun projects from Pogies to 906 collaboration bags. What has been your favorite project?
I suppose the “Ode de Trout" packs we made for the Salsa Blackborrow introduction still truly stands out. Last year we bought an ambulance, converted it into a Cedaero Adventuremobile and drove it to a few events with sewing machines in the back to sew custom packs for folks as they watched. That project was a lot of fun!
But it seems like every time we make a custom frame pack for someone, and it goes from an uploaded photograph of a bike to a finished pack in the colors the customer picked, there is some magic that we make. It’s fun to create a new favorite pack every day! My favorite today was the unveiling of the “Rainbow Road” edition packs.