Fat Paint Company a big success

A version of the following story was originally published in Invest New West, a magazine about the city’s economic development.

The FAT Paint Company is a New Westminster success story.

It started on a kitchen counter when Victoria Lambert and her brother, Bradford, were refinishing some furniture pieces.

Bradford worked in the film industry and he was familiar with a technique of mixing paint and chalk used by set decorators to give wood a weathered, authentic look. The chalk paint, known in the biz as “fat paint,” was versatile, easy to work with, dried quickly.
The refinished furniture pieces were a hit. The siblings decided to can their paint, and share their technique.

Today the Lamberts and their staff develop, mix, can and market their FAT Paint from a 3,065-square-foot production facility in a converted auto repair garage at the foot of 11th Street. More than 100 retailers across North America, from St. John’s, Newfoundland to San Antonio, Texas to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, sold 357,359 cans of their paint last year.

FAT Paint is available in nine provinces and 14 states, with plans to expand overseas in 2017.

But much of the work to make FAT Paint is still done by hand.

Until a recent move to automate the mixing process, the chalk and paint were combined in an old, repurposed industrial bread mixer.

Pouring the paint into 1-litre cans, sealing the lids and affixing the brand’s distinctive black and white labels gets the human touch.

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Confidence and customer service

This story was first published on my cycling blog, The Big Ring.

Confidence is the cornerstone of athletic achievement.

Gold medals aren’t won by the timid or meek.

When an athlete steps up to the starting line, climbs on the block, straps into their seat, clips into their pedals, they have to believe in their ability to compete with their rivals, to win.

They also have to have confidence in their equipment, that it will perform as they’ve come to expect, that it will hold up to the most vigorous demands, that it will enable their best performance rather than disable it. In fact, their confidence in their equipment has to be so strong, they don’t even question its capability.

At the end of August, when a spoke on my rear wheel snapped during a speedy descent the damage went beyond the wobbly wheel and the carbon fibre stay that had been pierced by the flailing spoke. My confidence in my equipment had been compromised.

Mario Bartel cyclist storyteller photographer blogger communicator
Damage to carbon fibre like a crack or puncture can be fatal. Repairing it is specialized work.

The spoke was quickly replaced.

And thanks to the specialized craftsmanship of Robert Mulder of Roberts Composites in North Vancouver, the stay looks as good as new, even if it is missing a Lapierre decal.

Mario Bartel cyclist storyteller photographer blogger
If it wasn’t for the missing decal, it would be hard to discern the chain stay had ever been damaged.

Mulder guarantees his work. His reputation for excellence has been built on years of minor miracle repairs to shattered frames, broken seat posts and well as custom building handlebars, rudders for sailboats, oars for paddlers.

The wheel was a longer journey.

When I was researching the Easton EA70s as a possible replacement for my worn Fulcrum 5s, I came across a few posts in forums and reviews that detailed dismay about broken and popped spokes. But almost all of those were from four or five years ago. The current model, according to the shop where I bought them, and Easton’s website, is a new design.

I laid down my credit card. With confidence.

And frankly, until the spoke issue first presented itself , the wheels had performed admirably. They rolled smoothly. They were relatively light. They seemed strong.

But the spoke failure shook my faith. Perhaps the wheels had something to do with the frequent flats I endured this season? Would other spokes fail? Could I count on the wheels to hold up during speedy descents?

My ears listened for every tell-tale click or pop that might indicate another spoke exploding.

To its credit, Easton stood behind its product.

Shortly after I posted my story of the Fondon’t failure, and promoted it on social media, they reached out and offered a deal I’d be hard-pressed to refuse; send back my EA70s, plus a little money, and they’d upgrade me to their top aluminum wheelset, EA90SLs.

The new wheels are a revelation. They’re extremely quiet and beautifully smooth. Their lightness, 200 grams less than the 70s, was immediately apparent the first time I hoisted the Lapierre.  That seemed to translate to the road as well.

Mario Bartel cyclist storyteller photographer communicator blogger
New wheels and renewed confidence in my equipment.

As for their durability; only time will tell. For now my confidence in my equipment has been fully restored.

Of course now that Easton customer service has whetted my appetite for $1200 wheels, my upgrade path just got a whole lot more complicated. And expensive. First World problems…

Celebrating a life’s milestone

Not a lot of life’s milestones achieve 25 years anymore. Jobs at the same employer rarely endure that long, let alone careers. People rarely live in the same apartment, same home for a quarter of a century. And fewer couples are attaining their silver wedding anniversary.
So I’m pretty proud that the little pick-up road hockey game I started with some buddies one fall morning 25 years ago is still going on. In fact, it may rank as one of my life’s achievements.
Over the years, generations of players have come and gone; only two of us remain from that inaugural match.
We’ve played through all kinds of weather. We’ve survived injuries, bad feelings, spells of complacency, goalie crises, shoddy equipment, no equipment and even the occasional locked-up court.
Through it all, we’ve been driven by the game’s spirit of camaraderie, the joy of competition without consequence, the connection we forge with the changing seasons and passing years, the pursuit of lasting youth.
Most of the games have been documented by renowned road hockey beat reporter and photographer Jay Suburb; first in a photocopied handout, The Road Hockey News, then on a Geocities website, Road Hockey Illustrated, and for the past 13 years on the blog, roadhockey.net.
Sunday, we officially opened Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s silver anniversary season.

Mario Bartel road hockey photojournalist storyteller communicator
Colonel tries to beat Joker with a wrap-around late in Sunday’s regluar season opener.

Quick shots a victorious recipe for undermanned team in season opener

Colonel’s languid attempt to wrap a shot around from the back of the net past Joker’s outstretched pad late in the game may have been the longest anyone on his team possessed the ball Sunday.

And while he didn’t score on that play, the wily veteran and his mates used quick crisp passes and timely shots to overwhelm their opponents 15-10 in Sunday’s regular season opener.

Playing without the benefit of a spare player to shift off for refreshed legs, Colonel and his mates kept the pressure on all game by keeping the evil orange plastic ball moving, even if their feet weren’t. That kept their opponents on the run, and Joker on his heels.

“Our passes were a little crisper, our shots were a little faster,” said Colonel. “Sometimes all you need is that extra split second and they go in as opposed to not going in.”

Joker admitted he had trouble tracking the ball at times as it moved quickly back and forth between the opposition’s stick blades.

“They were one-timing shots, and we were taking our time.”

The up-tempo playmaking was rewarded by a quick 5-2 advantage. But Colonel and his mates were wary to keep the pressure on.

“We came out pretty fast, but we learned pretty quick the game would go on for a while,” said the veteran centreman. “We had to keep our noses down and take chances when there were opportunities.”

Joker said his side’s man advantage may have kept their legs fitter but dulled their mental sharpness. Knowing they might be able to outlast their opponents in a longer game, played hung onto the ball, made the extra pass, moved the ball around the court more before taking a shot.

“We were taking our time,” said Joker. “We were accepting the pass and then setting up to shoot as opposed to shooting right away.”

That gave Lak Attack ample time to set up for saves. And, but for a brief lull in the second period, he was equal to the task.

That lull coincided with the underdog’s renewed effort sparked by Joker’s temper tirade  after successive goals stretched the lead even further. Kid, Bam Bam and even a pair by the Living Legend pulled the underdogs to within a goal, 10-9, at the second break.

But that was as close as they got.

Of mud and glory

What happens when you cross a bike race with a mud bog?

Queens Cross.

Saturday’s driving rainstorm may have deterred all but the hardiest spectators, but dozens of riders from beginners to elite men and women relished the chance to battle each other and the elements at New Westminster’s Queen’s Park in the fifth race of the eight-race Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition’s series.

Cyclocross is an off-road version of a road cycling criterium race in which riders lap a number of circuits on a two or three kilometre course comprised of dirt trails, grassy meadows, over barriers and across creeks or gullies. It evolved in Belgium and Northern France in the early 1900s as a way for road cyclists to stay fit during the fall and winter off-season. Sometimes getting to the warmth and shelter of the nearest café or brasserie meant cutting across farmer’s fields and through forests; cyclocross replicates that experience.

Saturday’s cold torrential downpour was worthy of the worst weather of the Ardennes and turned most of the course at the west end of Queen’s Park into a track of thick, viscous muck. At the end of each event, the line at the hose station was 20-30 muddy cyclists deep. Even through their exhaustion, many managed a smile. After all, there’s often a rainbow at the end of a rainstorm.

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Sugarrays brings boxing to gritty Front Street

Brennan Williams believes boxing gyms belong under bridges. So that’s where he put his new Sugarrays Boxing and Fitness Club.

Well, not quite a bridge. But the east end of Front Street where the remaining bulk of the old concrete parkade blocks out the sun and locks in the noise of passing trucks.

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Brennan Williams takes a break in the custom-built ring at his new Sugarrays Boxing Gym on Front Street.

There’s no place Williams, who grew up in Burnaby but has deep family roots in the Royal City going back three generations, would rather be.

“New West has an old history,” says Williams. Perfect for pugilists.

“It’s a classic sport, it’s got a culture,” says Williams. “Everybody has something in their history that connects them to boxing.”

Even if it’s just a memory of watching a Rocky movie.

Sugarrays has been a part of Vancouver’s boxing scene for more than 16 years, first on Granville Street downtown and currently in Kitsilano.

Williams, who learned the sweet science at the gym under legendary coach Bob McAdam and now passes on his knowledge to  prospective boxers aged 16-60, had no doubt where he wanted to locate Sugarrays second facility. He was tiring of the long commute into Vancouver.

Sugarrays New Westminster gym opened Oct. 1 at 425 Front St. after months of construction, including the installation of a custom-built ring, dozens of heavy and speed bags, a weight station and spin bikes. A projector beams boxing matches on a whitewashed cinderblock wall, a collage of framed black and white photos of famous and unknown boxers looms over the reception counter. The 3,000 square foot gym doesn’t yet have the worn-in sweat and spit ambiance of a classic old-time boxing gym; that mostly exists outside the front door, beneath the hulking parkade.

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Brennan Williams grew up in Burnaby but he has deep family roots in New Westminster, so he had no doubts where he wanted to locate his second Sugarrays Boxing Gym.

Williams says the gym is in the business of training fighters, but there’s no requirement to face an opponent in the 15-foot training ring. The boxer’s fitness regime is what attracts most members.

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Brennan Williams, of Sugarrays Boxing Gym, says a boxer’s training workout can be grueling. That may explain the puke bucket hanging in a corner of the gym’s custom-built ring.

That can be comprised of a 30-45 minute circuit of skipping, dips, rope climbs, pedalling the stationary bike and strengthening the abs, plus an hour of running and  10 rounds of pounding the various leather bags.

“It’s a tough workout,” says Williams. “It takes real grit.”

Sugarrays is open seven days a week; 2 – 10 pm on weekdays, 10 am – 3 pm on weekends.

This story was originally published on Tenth to the Fraser.