New industry for Kimberley

Berley Manufacturing’s first product is its own design: a hollow longboard that’s light, strong and fast

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Noah Wesche and his partners, Jody Willcock and Aaron Christensen, have just opened a manufacturing shop in Kimberley, B.C., and are understandably excited about their business launch. Berley Manufacturing will employ 12 to 20 people to build a variety of products from laminated wood, and with longboard giant Vancouver-based Landyachtz as a partner, Berley’s first products will be a new style of the long skateboard.

These particular boards are the innovative product that attracted Landyachtz to the partnership. Willcock, who is something of a legend in the boarding world, has built prototypes for Landyachtz for years—he’s credited with designing the original dropped-platform board. Wesche knows the partners at Landyachtz through skateboard racing.

“To date, we’re the only ones that make hollow skateboards,” Wesche said. “We had been toying with the idea for years, and then one night me and Jody and Aaron actually figured out how to do it. It was a marketable idea that nobody else was doing, and Landyachtz was all over it.”

Berley is born

When Landyachtz said yes to a partnership back in December 2013, Wesche and Willcock quit their jobs and, with Christensen committed to the partnership as well, started Berley Manufacturing Inc. They acquired and began renovations on the building at 110 Howard Street at the intersection of Howard Street and Kimberley Avenue and started building specialized production machines. Wesche is an industrial instrument mechanic and Willcock is a trained industrial shop teacher. Christensen, a talented CNC (computer numerical control) machinist, joined them at Berley as soon as the machinery was ready.

The renovated building includes a small retail space for Berley and office space for other businesses. The 3,460-square-foot lower level of the store is the manufacturing centre.

“We just opened in mid-November,” Wesche said. “We’re set up to build anything we want out of laminated wood, and we’re starting with skateboards. It’s a huge market. We have a whole generation of kids that skateboard before they ride a bike—lots of them don’t even own bikes.”

A dream with a future

Wesche is enthusiastic about this business venture, and a good portion of his excitement is from the fact that he and his friends get to work right at home in Kimberley.

“I’m happy to be able to work for myself building skateboards, instead of having to work at the mine,” he said. “I want to be able to encourage shopping local and encourage growth of manufacturing here. Kimberley could be a great hub for manufacturing. We have a lot of trained tradespeople here who commute out of this town, and it would be great to have work for them right here. That could attract lots of new people and families to Kimberley.

“I’m so happy with this venture. I’ve never had a job where I could go home at the end of every day. Now, I can run home any time—it’s just a block away. We’re not digging into a mountain or cutting down trees. We’re making products we care about, and people are hearing about us and getting excited. They are finding us and leaving their resumes.”

Wesche said the partners are designing a work environment at Berley where people can feel like they’re hanging out with friends, making awesome stuff that they take pride in. The plan is for the manufacturing plant to operate 10 hours per day, four days per week, a schedule that accommodates family life.

“Aaron and I have other business ventures that we’d like to bring here,” Wesche said, “because the cost of living here is low, labour isn’t too expensive, buildings are affordable—the only thing that kills you around here is shipping.”

Wesche and his partners appreciate the strong sense of community in Kimberley, and they are surprised and gratified at the support that the business venture has received.

Better, faster, more

Wesche described the trio of partners as creative individuals who can’t settle for the status quo. Willcock, with his laid-back manner, has been described on straight.com as a “Yoda-like skateboard innovator.”

“We always have to make things bigger and better and faster and stronger and lighter and more efficient,” Wesche said. “This is just the next thing, for now. You know how some people are really excited and eager to talk about their stuff, or what they’re doing? That’s not us. Our stuff speaks for itself, and we just want to get on with building it.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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