Avery Pack was in his late 20s and getting scattered media attention for the stylish bikes the Columbia arts graduate was assembling in a 5,000-square-foot workshop in Pompano Beach. One afternoon in 2008, the phone rang. Pack answered and heard the kind of greeting that would make any start-up jealous.
“Hi,” the voice on the other end said, “this is Google.”
The voice belonged to the head of Google’s transportation department, an arm of the tech giant charged with getting employees from one spot to another.
Soon after, Pack’s Republic Bike was selling Google a fleet of two-wheelers painted in the Web giant’s famously bright and basic color scheme. A yellow frame, green-and-blue tires, red fenders.
Google wanted about a thousand of them to make transportation easier at its sprawling campus in Mountain View, Calif. They’re still an integral part of the cushy daily life of Google workers, who can pick up any bike and pedal off to meetings or lunch at one of the campus’ free restaurants and cafes.
“It’s a quite a joyful thing to see,’’ Pack, now 35, said of touring the “Googleplex” and seeing dozens of his bikes at every turn. “It’s a pretty unique environment that they’ve created. A lot of it has to do with all of these multi-colored bicycles zipping around. When you visit, you’re kind of struck immediately with the whimsy of it.”
San Francisco’s Museum of the Computer Age added an early model of the “Gbike” into its permanent collection on Silicon Valley. A newer model played a cameo role in the recent Vince Vaughn movie about middle-aged Google interns.
But while the Google Bike easily qualifies as the most celebrated of Republic’s creations, Pack enjoys sales success throughout the Fortune 500.
From his new 50,000-square-foot distribution center and workshop in Dania Beach, Pack presides over a small team of bike mechanics churning out customized two-wheelers for some of the biggest brands in America. The companies pay a premium to deliver employees stylized bikes clad in their corporate colors, a well-timed perk amid the push for more daily exercise and fuel conservation.
U-Haul bought foldable orange-and-white bikes so its workers could make quick rides back after parking a truck in the far reaches of a depot. Evernote, another Silicon Valley star, keeps a collection of black-and-green Republic bikes at its Redwood, Calif., headquarters that employees can use for running errands or commuting the train station. Nike and Intuit have Republic bikes on their campuses, and 30 Rock bought 200 branded bikes as wrap gifts for its cast and crew for their final episode of the NBC comedy.
Small companies from around the country order mini Republic fleets, too. In Tampa, the Cigar City Brewery uses a pair of stout Republic bikes with a reinforced basket holder to haul bags of barely and hops from one end of the brew house to another.
“We ordered them in our colors, which are red and yellow,” founder Joey Redner said. “When you’re talking about a thing that weighs 50-plus pounds, walking it is long enough to be annoying.”
Pack’s Fortune 500 clients and his bikes’ mentions in Vogue, Newsweek and Wired contrast with the company’s low profile in Broward County.