“Where it began (oh oh oh oh) I can’t begin to know it. But then I know its growing strong”
Neil Diamond “Sweet Caroline”
“2,000 zero zero, party over oops out of time. So tonight we’re gonna party like its 1999”
It all started way back on New Year’s Eve 1999. I was at a party with all the friends I had grown up with. There were maybe 50 people there and they were all people I loved to pieces and that I had known most of my life. We were at a friend’s house, out back in an old shed/barn thing with a tiny T.V. watching the ball drop with our plastic glasses of champagne. The clock struck midnight and we all cheered and hugged and celebrated and at 12:05 I got the hell out of there and headed for home. I suddenly had this overwhelming desire to be with my cat….and to NOT be with these wonderful people.
Our lives were diverging. They were all starting to partner up and look towards marriage and kids and a house and a Labrador. I was not. Not that I wasn’t interested in that stuff, it just didn’t seem like what I wanted to do right then. I wanted to do something more. To be something more and at the stroke of midnight, at the turn of the millennium I made the vow to find a different path.
Two things happened then. First, I had met a guy who was in the Air Force reserves and although I am NOT made to be in the military joining the reserves seemed like a good way to challenge myself and make some extra money. On January 2nd, I went through MEPS for the Air Force Reserves. I passed everything and got to the part where I had to sign on the dotted line. They told me I had 3 days to commit so I walked away to think it through.
On January 3rd a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go out to a gym on the other side of town and check it out. We went, and I walked into Thompson Barbell, a hardcore, grungy training facility unlike anything else I had ever been to. We worked out and I really, really liked the vibe. More than the Air Force Reserves, this place felt like what I was looking for. A complete 360 degree turn in my life. The owner of the gym, a big guy named Don Thompson (yep, the one and only) said he would give me a free training session the following day. I showed up the next day and Don Thompson was not there. He had forgotten (if you know Don you know that is not unheard of) but his friend Marc Bartley was there and he trained me and told me to come back later in the week for another session and then another, and another and then I was hooked. I had found what I needed, a slap in the face, a goal oriented super cool place to hang out with a new and strange group of people. I didn’t know if I belonged, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it all.
I was 25 years old. I was an English major with little to no business skills. My job at the time was with an association for independent bookstores. I loved my job, but there wasn’t much chance of advancement. My boss had taught me a TON of good skills and I had spent 3 years planning and helping to run an annual trade show. I was not what anyone would have called a skilled business woman. If you had asked my parents at the time if I would one day be running a company with my husband, they would have laughed and laughed. And yet, here we are today.
Our story is long. It is twisty. It is sometimes hard to watch. It reminds me of an old gospel hymn that talks about climbing up the rough side of the mountain. And folks, that is what we have done. We have climbed up the rough side of every mountain, even when there was a perfectly good footpath. We have scraped and scrapped and fought and learned and failed and faced every possible bit of shit you can face. But in the end, we have this wonderful little company. Our baby. Our Spud, Inc.
For your Musical Entertainment:
PS: Fun Fact. In third grade I took the album 1999 to school with me for Show and Tell. I wanted to show everyone the man I was going to marry. I remember pulling it out of my book bag at the bus stop to show my friends. Needless to say, the teacher was a bit mortified and I had to give her the album to keep in her desk until the end of the day. Good times!