By the time you read this I’ll probably be gone. Well not gone per se, just not really here at Clavey anymore. And not completely gone, but certainly more gone than here. Let’s call it 98% gone. Kinda like being mostly pregnant. There it is, by the time you read this I’ll be 98% pregnant.
Maybe some back story would help.
I can’t remember exactly just what year Jeff Kellogg and Tom Meckfessel bought Clavey River Equipment. I only remember it was 10 years after Van Halen had released their album 1984. I was a whitewater kayaker at the time logging 200+ days on the river and very little time earning a paycheck. As the second lowest form of life on the planet I distinctly recall thinking that I was going to somehow parlay their hard labors into some free tee shirts for me. You see, Tom was shacked up with my sister at the time and since I’d been drinking his beer for years, I figured advertising for his new enterprise was the least I could do. The day they gave me a Clavey sweatshirt I thought I’d won the lottery (those were certainly simpler times).
While Jeff and Tom we’re steadily building Clavey’s wholesale business to whitewater outfitters and slowly getting a start on the world of retail, I was avoiding all social responsibility with great verve and zest. It was about this time that I bought and moved on to my sailboat in Marina del Rey. And even though living illegally at the Santa Monica Yacht Club only cost me $143 a month, I still had to come up with that money from somewhere. My 50% effort at at acting and writing was paying for both my slip fee and my meals but it left a serious deficient in beer funds. So when Tom called and asked if I wanted to earn a few bucks watching the shop while he and Jeff flew to Wales to work with Avon regarding Clavey’s new distributorship for North America, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only could I drain Tom’s reserve of Rainer Ale while earning a paycheck, but I was in serious need of a home cooked meal and I knew my sister would supply exactly that.
This would have been in January or February, when the wholesale business was all but non-existent, so my responsibilities were few (thank god). So instead of doing something productive with my time, I instead spent my days creating pranks for Tom and Jeff – like the email I sent them that was designed to look like it had gone out to the Clavey email list. It read, “For the next three days, all sales paid in cash, not needing a receipt, will receive a 50% discount.” I was surprised just how quickly I received a call from the UK.
For the next few years I showed up to watch the shop like that whenever Tom and Jeff we’re off at boat shows or off spending a few days on the river. A little cash, some gas for the car and a whole lot of beer was all it would take to get me to drive from LA to Petaluma.
And then one day, shortly after the turn of the century, Tom mentioned they were moving the shop to a new location and would I be interested in some more work. I was and I did. But this time, after the move, I stayed on to help a little. Shipping and receiving mostly. Sweeping the floor. Keeping the refrigerator clean of beer. That sort of thing. And, whenever I got the chance, some sales.
I’d been selling professionally since grade school. I was the kid who would jump off the bus and rush to my buddy’s house to sell his parents whatever the booster club was pushing that week. “Gosh Mrs. Higbee, I don’t know if Keith is also working with the school on this current push for much needed funding but I do know that these boxes of M&Ms taste so good, cost so little and the school needs the money so badly. Would you like four boxes or should I make it eight? I bet Mr. Higbee would love to see these in his lunch for work, we better make it eight.” That was the third grade. During high school my buddy’s parents were always trying to convince me to join a gang or something. Anything to keep me from selling those damn candies for the booster club.
I lived with Tom, my sister and my two little nieces during these months. And while Tom and Jeff appreciated my work at Clavey, I know seeing me 24 hours a day was starting to take its toll on Tom. At the end of that first summer Tom gave me money for a tank of gas, handed me a six pack of cold beer and loaded my bags into the back of my car, promised he’d mail anything I’d forgotten, gave me a shove out the door and locked it behind me. The lights in the house went out as quickly as a London air raid and as I backed the car down the drive I could see him peeking out from behind the blinds. I pointed my headlights south and began the trek back to the city of angels once again.
The next summer was similar to the one before with one big exception: When the season rolled to an end and Jeff handed me what he thought would be my final paycheck, I refused to leave. We’ll it’s not like I actually refused. I just kept showing up, working, and writing down my hours. Tom sat me down at the house one night and said that while he and Jeff enjoyed working with me, there wasn’t enough work to keep me occupied and frankly, Clavey could not afford to keep me on through the shoulder season. I said I totally and completely understood and I thanked him for being so honest. And then the next day I showed up at Clavey, put in my day at work and wrote down my hours. The best part was, I didn’t actually so much as show up at Clavey either. I really just sat in the passenger seat of Tom’s truck when he drove to work. And then after logging my hours I would get back in the same seat and ride back to the house in Point Reyes once again.
Looking back, I can’t help but feel sorry for Tom. He couldn’t just pull over at the Nicasio Reservoir, knock me unconscious with a brick and leave me for dead. My sister would have noticed my car was still parked in the driveway. It’s because of my own poor behavior as an unwanted houseguest that I get notarized commitments and credit card deposits from friends and family before they’re allowed to stay at my own house past 11pm.
But if I was going to stay, I was gonna have to pay for myself. And with that, Jeff and Tom unshackled me from the shipping and receiving desk and released me on to the sales floor. And over the years I’ve sold a boat or two and have managed to pay my way.
As a true lefty liberal, I truly enjoy helping people. And what’s a better way to help people than to get them into a new kayak, raft or stand up paddleboard. My daily affirmation is: Enjoy life today because tomorrow we get cancer and die. Clavey has been the perfect tool to help me help people to enjoy life today. And for the sincere personal enrichment that comes from helping people to be genuinely happy, if only for a few hours on the water, well then, I’ve been a productive member of society and for giving me that opportunity, I owe Jeff Kellogg and and Tom Meckfessel my very sincere gratitude – Gentlemen, thank you very much.
During my time as a cog in the wheel of watersports recreation, I’ve had some highlights:
First and foremost, I met my wife at Clavey. The day she came in to buy a kayak, I knew there was a relationship going to happen between us. That fact that it took four years to start wasn’t really what I expected. But start it did and married we are. Stalking may be illegal in California but sometimes the results speak for themselves.
I’ve met some great people during my tenure at Clavey. I’ve garnered great friendships from sales to sales reps. From customers to customer service people. The guides, the guests and the goof balls. Outfitters and outsiders. The paddlesports industry has, without a doubt, some of the neatest people in the world.
And I’ve had some great sales road trips along the way. Because of Clavey I’ve run some of the most ridiculously named rivers in the Southeast United States – the French Broad and the Nollichucky come to mind. I’ve also run so many of the classics: The Gauley, Cataract Canyon, the Main Salmon, the Illinois River and Cherry Creek to name but a few. And always on someone else’s dime. And my bachelor party on the Tuolumne was well worth getting married for – What? No honey, that’s not what I meant!
I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years: I fixed F-14s in the Navy. I sold stocks, picture frames and even cars for a weekend. I worked bungee jumping sites all over the world. I waited tables and managed restaurants. I wrote comedy for TV and even sold some movie scripts. I was the obvious raft guide.
But nothing I’ve done has left such a positive taste in my mouth as my time at Clavey. My time with Tom Meckfessel and Jeff Kellogg. My time with all of you.
I thank you all sincerely. You’ll be missed.
And remember: life is short, go get on the water.