Overcoming Challenges Together
When Burgeon Outdoor opened its doors last November, nobody could have imagined what the first year would have in store. “It’s been one learning experience after another,” said operations manager Justin Walsh. “We’ve learned a lot in this first year. There were many twists and turns. Even if we hadn’t had this massive pandemic, it would have been a crazy learning experience of a year for us.”
Today, as Burgeon Outdoor celebrates its one year anniversary, we reflect on a roller coaster year that, for better or worse, was defined by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with a global threat unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes, Burgeon and its employees rose to the challenge and helped make a meaningful difference in the local community during a time of great need and hardship.
“I think I’ll look back on that as a real time of team building and camaraderie and that will be one of the high points despite the fact that it’s obviously the low point because so many people were devastated by this virus,” said Burgeon Outdoor founder Rudy Glocker. “It was a transition for us that was perfectly in line with our mission, trying to create a better tomorrow for mountain communities and this was a chance for us to put our best foot forward.”
Donating 10,000 MasksBefore the coronavirus pandemic began in mid-March, Burgeon had enjoyed a successful launch and a strong holiday season and was gearing up for the arrival of warmer weather in the spring. But once the pandemic hit almost everything came to a standstill, and the firm realized it would have to adjust its plans to account for the new, uncertain environment.
Before long a new direction presented itself in the form of a simple question from a customer, “are you making masks?”
“I hadn’t even thought about it at the time, this was back in mid-March or something, and I approached Rudy and said ‘we should probably be doing this,’” Walsh said. “Because there’s an incredible amount of need right now. We literally have hospitals and businesses wanting masks, any masks they could get. In March there was a severe PPE shortage and masks were not available anywhere.”
In a matter of days Burgeon shifted 100% of its production to making masks, and in order to provide the greatest benefit to those in greatest need, the firm gave the masks away for free.
Burgeon donated its masks to community health organizations like North Conway’s Memorial Hospital, Ammonoosuc Community Health Services and the TaraVista Behavioral Health Center in Massachusetts, as well as local charities like Loon Mountain Ministry, hiking organizations such as the White Mountains Trail Collective and to local businesses like Lincoln’s Price Chopper supermarket.
“We thought by donating those masks to these organizations and others like them, the masks that we made would have the highest net impact,” Glocker said. “It was literally going to someone who was going to use it right away and who had no other options.”
As the summer approached and the nation adjusted to the pandemic’s new normal, visitors began returning to Lincoln and to the White Mountains seeking respite from the challenges of 2020. With their arrival came a renewed demand for Burgeon’s offerings, and the company was able to shift production back to its outdoor apparel offerings once more.
“I think we benefitted as being an outdoor apparel manufacturer because people wanted to get outside,” Glocker said. “There was no shortage of people who wanted to go hiking, who wanted to go canoeing, who wanted to go for walks, who wanted to go just about anywhere. I think they just wanted to get outside.”
Burgeon, which did not lay off any workers during the pandemic, has seen its business steadily grow every month since June. In fact, the firm has doubled the size of its stitching team since the pandemic began and Glocker said he’s hopeful the business can continue to grow in the months ahead.
“We really came out of this thing with our feet on the ground,” Glocker said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but the dire and dark days of April and May are far behind us thankfully. Hopefully things will stay this way.”
In the coming weeks Burgeon Outdoor plans to introduce a number of new products ahead of the holiday season, including a significant expansion of the brand’s women’s offerings.
A significant focus will be on the newly released Campfire Fleece collection, which will include newly designed vests and jackets to accompany the half-zip pullover. There will also be women’s versions of the popular Franconia mid layer and the Washington Softshell Outer Layer, which will utilize upgraded fabric and improved features.
In addition, Burgeon plans to introduce a new line of microfleece hoodies for both men and women in the near future, and further down the road there are additional products in the works as well as upcoming improvements for existing ones.
Over the holidays Burgeon also plans to donate up to 25% of its sales to several local nonprofits, including the White Mountains Trail Collective, Loon Mountain Ministry, Granite Backcountry Alliance, and New England Disabled Sports. Every purchase will help support these nonprofits and their missions, especially given the financial challenges most have faced throughout the pandemic.
Going forward Burgeon hopes to continue supporting organizations like these, and whether through donating masks or volunteering time or money, the company is looking forward to making an even greater impact in Year 2 than it did in Year 1.
“We exist to make a positive impact in these communities. How do we do that? We invest in our people, we invest in our environment and we invest in our communities,” Glocker said. “The way we pay the bills is by making really outstanding outdoor apparel right here in the White Mountains, that’s what we do.”
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