While we’ve grown quite a bit since 1978, we’re still a small company with only 15 employees. Staying small has allowed us to ride the ups and downs of the bike industry over the last 40+ years as well as respond and adapt to ever-changing trends and standards. Along the way we’ve had to navigate the same, sometimes conflicting choices every business faces; how do we run a profitable business, treat our employees well, make our customers happy, and be good corporate citizens? The simple answer is, we just try to get better on every front, every day. That takes a lot of different forms here: providing benefits and retirement to our employees, investing in a 100% solar-powered shop, using environmentally safe machining coolant, a comprehensive materials recycling program, recyclable packaging, domestically sourced raw materials, and making sure all our customers get the best service and support available. Put simply, we run the company with respect for everyone involved, including the environment.
If you’ve ever met Doug White, the words “humble”, “unassuming”, and “low-key” come to mind. And it’s exactly because of those very traits that many are surprised to hear about Doug’s deep history in the local cycling community as well as his many innovations under the White Industries brand. For the last 40 years Doug has run his company much the same way, choosing to focus on how to succeed in an ever-changing industry rather than spending much time on self-promotion or celebrating past successes.
Doug White got his start as a machinist working for United Airlines at SFO in the late 60’s. But like many kids in their early twenties at that time he grew restless and in 1970 decided to quit his steady gig and move to Marin County, not knowing what his next move would be. With his machining background the idea of becoming a shop teacher appealed to him so he enrolled in the first class of the newly launched Industrial Arts program at College of Marin, soon becoming a teacher’s assistant to Ray Moitoza. As chance would have it, one of his classmates was a guy named Craig Mitchell with whom Doug would become friends with and later collaborate with on bike-related projects. Their friendship came into play when Craig left his job at Sunshine Bicycle Center in Fairfax in 1971 and asked Doug to take his place.
It was at Sunshine where Doug’s career in the bicycle industry began. The cycling boom of the 70’s was in full swing and Doug and a frequent Sunshine customer named Phil Brown decided to go into business making bicycle frames in 1972 under the Brown & White Cycles name. “He was the money/logistics guy and I was the frame builder”, says Doug with a laugh. “We sold 30 to 35 frames over a couple years before I got fed up with a particularly needy customer and said, ‘that’s it!’.” He sold the frame fixtures he had made while at College of Marin to Craig but was able to “borrow” them when needed, which he did in 1976 when he built a 20” wheeled mountain bike to ride on his local trails in Inverness. About this same time in 1976 Craig used those same fixtures to build a 26” wheeled, diamond-style mountain bike frame for Charlie Kelly.