Berkeley Backpacking Biz - Old School, New School, No School

Nancy Eisen, Susan Smith, Susan Castner - Erickson Outdoors

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Susan Castner: I think what would be interesting to sort of continue this thread is that all three of us ended up working for Erickson Outdoors.

Alan Tabor: Oh!

Susan C: So, when I when I left North Face, took some time off went to visit Cammy and Steve up in Jackson Hole, and played around for a bit, came back…and I was pregnant and I got a call from Mark [Erickson] who said, ”Jan [Fletcher]'s pregnant. Could you come in and cover…for her, well, she's not really taking a maternity leave but we could do with some backup.” And I said, “Well funny thing I'm pregnant, too.”  And he said, “You know what, that's okay…(I was a couple months behind her)…we'll make we'll make it work for the two of you.” So, I went to work for Erickson outdoors in ’91.

And I honestly don't remember. You followed me after I left.

Susan Smith: Yes.  You were still at The North Face though.

Nancy Eisen: I stated at North Face until just before Dan [Castner] left.

Susan C: Right. So, Dan had an offer at Moonstone Mountaineering.  We both went up. I was extended a job offer in sourcing. So, we moved up to her Arcadia in early ‘94 and I think that's when you may have come in to Erickson Outdoors.

Nancy: Actually, I came in to Erickson…let's see here what was this timing. Let's see it was ‘93 when I left North Face. Dan and Kevin [Smith] had agreed to…I said look…they wanted me to go work over at the Pink Palace…Jeff Kohr did…and I was not…at that point we had Pat Schoof and there was some pretty… you know I don't know if you remember Pat Schoof.

Alan Tabor: She was the basis for a Catbert in Dilbert wasn't she?  The evil HR Manager.


Nancy: She was the evil HR person who had come in.  And they wanted me to go over to work in the Pink Palace doing something or other…I can't even remember what…because the factory was going to be closed and you know Dan was going to be leaving. So, I asked Dan and Kevin to lay me off basically. So, I got a severance and again I went and traveled for a while and then I came back.  And I absolutely cannot remember what I did after after that.

But, it was it was not too long I want to say it was like by at least June…maybe it was June…I got the position at Erickson. I just remember being there when Jeff [Donnelly] finally got a job because he got laid off also by North Face at the same time I did and we traveled together. He got a…I was on the phone with him when he got hired by YKK…and I was sitting there at Erickson when I when I found that out and that was October of 93. So, I think maybe I came in in June.

And at Erickson that was interesting, because I was working for Jan, and so I started really having contact with the outside world…you know Asia and sourcing…and I was buying all the materials for the domestic production and all of that.  Running the materials plan very similar to what I came into Mountain Hardwear to do.

Susan S: And was I there already?

Nancy: Yeah, you were there already. I was just really happy to get to Erickson where there's… here's people that I know, that I know I love to work with, and that kind of thing. So, you know, Betty Davis was there too.

Susan S: Yeah.

Susan C: Linden was there.

Nancy: Linden was there but not when I was.  She'd already left.

Susan S: She’d had already left.

Nancy: Yeah. And I want to say…there were a couple other people. Ignacio was there, too. Ignacio Munoz. But yeah, so I learned a lot from Jan.

Alan: Yeah.

Nancy: A whole lot., you know the whole basically front to back process of materials planning and costing. I started to learn costing methods.

Alan: Did you go to direct from The North Face to Erickson?

Susan S: Me?

Alan: Yeah.

Susan S: No, I did a stint of some freelancing in that time…because I had, also, had Dallas and so I went back to The North Face after my maternity leave. But, you know, I had been there for nine years and in that time period of taking off to you know have Dallas and then coming back…I think I took about a three-month maternity leave and I came back…the whole place was completely different. I couldn't believe it and I didn't want to work there anymore. So I left…I think I left in about November of ‘91…so for a couple of years I did freelancing and I freelanced with both…initially freelance with North Face but that didn't last very long…and Sierra Designs.  So I went over to Sierra Designs and worked with Paul [Kramer] a little bit…or I was reporting to Paul but worked with Cate Wallenfels.

Alan: Right.

Susan S: So, I did some contracting there…and then,  let's see…then I was there during the time when everyone left Sierra Designs to create Mountain Hardwear. And during that time I basically helped fill the gap because all the key players had left.  So I came in.  I designed a few pieces. I finished up the pieces that had been designed and were finished and I helped push those into production. Got all of those going and in the meantime…. So, I worked a bit with Bill Sterling during that time period and they had the new Interim President at Sierra Designs and he actually asked, well…. So, I was doing that, but I was also freelancing with Erickson Outdoors.  So, at the time when the Interim President was about to step out, he actually asked me if I wanted to come in and be their Designer, and I said…because then Mark Erickson also offered me a position. Well, I don't know if this was a good move or a bad move but I turned him down as the Designer for Sierra Designs.  Which could have taken my career whole different path.





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