A Hincapie employee’s first year in the Hincapie family
By Lindsay Niedringhaus, Director of Marketing and Communications
It’s 6 p.m. on a Wednesday evening in El Tesoro, a shopping mall in the southeastern section of Medellin, Colombia. El Tesoro is everything you would imagine an American shopping mall to be—an array of stores ranging from home furnishings to women’s fashions and toy stores—as well as a hair salon specializing in children’s haircuts. This is where I find myself on a Wednesday evening in September.
I have travelled to Medellin with my boss, Rich Hincapie, his wife Drew, their son Tomas, and custom sales rep Seth Withers. The Hincapie factory, where all the Hincapie apparel is produced and that’s operated by Rich’s uncle, aunt, and cousin, resides in Medellin, and Rich travels there every few months for general business purposes. Every year, he makes an effort to bring members of Greenville’s Hincapie staff along on his trips so that we can experience for ourselves the production process of the apparel we sell on a daily basis. Being a relatively new employee (I’d only been at Hincapie for 10 months), and considering one of my main duties is to tell the Hincapie story, it made sense for me to go on this trip.
What I expect is a tour of the factory, an introduction to the factory staff, some general sightseeing, and perhaps a dinner with Rich’s uncle and aunt. I do that. But what I also get is a true immersion into the Hincapie family.
A Family Event
We’ve spent the entire day at the factory, meeting with the designers, having conversations with the factory workers, and strategizing with Rich’s cousin and factory operator Mely Hincapie. That evening, though, before heading to dinner, we make a pit stop at the mall. Why? Six-month-old Tomas needs a haircut—his first haircut, which means all the family is there to witness it.
As Drew settles down into the salon chair with Tomas in her lap, I take the free moment to catch up on emails and check our social media accounts from my phone. When I look up, I can’t help but admire the scene in front of me. Mari, Rich’s aunt, is fluttering around the room, kissing on Tomas and taking photos. Nearby, Mely sits with her daughter singing nursery rhymes, while her husband Christian chats with Seth about his day at the factory. Rich sits with his uncle Jorge, laughing over something Jorge has just said. All the while Mely’s other infant daughter naps peacefully in the stroller next to her mother.
This is the Hincapie family. A seemingly everyday activity warrants the entire family coming together because, with the Hincapie family, every moment is worth celebrating. And this passion for life, this love for the alive, is evident throughout the entire Hincapie business, from the Gran Fondos to the sportswear to the racing team.
A Group Effort
Take the Athens Twilight Criterium this past year, for example. This is the last event of what’s known as “Speed Week” in the cycling world, and the Hincapie team (Holowesko|Citadel) was competing. In the grand scheme of races that year, Twilight was a minor race, as it’s only a one-night criterium. However, as I walk on the team RV that evening before the race begins, not only is chief sports director Thomas Craven sitting with the guys on the team, but also George and Rich Hincapie are there, along with presenting sponsor Mark Holowesko. Five minutes later, in walks the coach for the Hincapie junior team, and all together, the guys come up with a plan for the crit.
The plan must have worked because that evening, Holowesko|Citadel rider John Murphy (or “Murph,” as they call him) crosses the finish line first. Rich is at the finish line, and as Murph crosses, Rich pumps his fist in the air and lets out a celebratory “Whoop!” Murph dismounts his bike, and Rich is the first to give him a hug before his teammates gather around him to celebrate.
Or this past Gran Fondo weekend. The day before the annual Warehouse Sale, brand ambassadors from all over the United States and the world come to the office to visit. Rich has pulled aside one of his Canyon bikes to lend to an ambassador traveling from Mexico, and when the ambassador walks in the door, the bike is already fitted to him and stocked with water bottles.
The day of the Warehouse Sale, George brings his wife and kids to help. Rich brings bunuelos (a Colombian treat) for the staff to enjoy before the crowds come in. And when it’s go time, everyone—from staff to ambassadors to spouses and George and Rich—stand behind counters, organize apparel, and bring each other waters (and beer).
A True Family
Of course, every family has its drama, and this family is far from perfect. There have been plenty of staff meetings where feathers are ruffled, where someone declares something a little too loud, where eyes roll and hands hit the table. But it’s in those moments that you see the passion that’s so much a part of this company, from the steamy streets of Medellin to the old warehouse building of Hincapie HQ in Greenville, South Carolina.
That night in Medellin, after Tomas finishes his haircut, we all pile in separate cars and make plans to meet up at a restaurant downtown. Rich, Jorge, and I make it to the restaurant first, and as we sit at a table underneath street-side trees lit with stringed lights, Rich reminisces about his days as an amateur racer. Almost an hour later, my coworker Seth finally shows up. When I ask him what took him so long, he responds that he ended up in a car with Mely, her husband, and their daughters, and the kids (Seth included) wanted to stop for icecream. The girls each got their own cone, and Seth enjoyed a chocolate treat as well.
This is exactly what we mean when we use the phrase #hincapiefamily. When you join us, whether that be through a Gran Fondo, a Spring Series race, placing a custom order with us, or joining the Hincapie Cycling Society, you become a part of our crazy, passionate, silly, sometimes ugly, but always beautiful family. We’ll support you through the order process, come to your events, and help promote your business on social media. But we’ll also enjoy hearing about your kids, comparing notes on the latest Zwift ride, and asking your opinion about a product we just released.
Because when you do business with us, you truly are one of us—through the good and the bad. And if your experience is anything like mine has been in the past year, you’ll find this family addicting. The Colombian heritage brings an intensity and devotion that is unlike any other, and the result is a family who appreciates life and craves the authentic. A family who loves harder than any I’ve ever met.