A few years ago, someone took a snapshot of Jonathan Schneider and Richard Grossman, avid cyclists and close friends since childhood, after they finished a long charity ride. Their cycling jerseys sported flames and a beer brewer’s logo. The photo sparked a discomfiting realization: They looked like clowns.
Thus was born Road Holland, a boutique maker of stylishly simple, high-end, high-performance cycling jerseys that don’t scream “cyclist’’ and won’t embarrass the wearer to be seen in off the bike. Since its launch in 2010, Road Holland has won a growing following among dedicated cyclists for the quality of its materials and its distinctive designs, which are inspired by the Dutch tradition of cycling as an everyday activity — but made by skilled, veteran cutters and seamstresses in Hialeah, not exactly a cycling hotbed.
“The Dutch ride not just for sport. It’s a way of life,’’ said Schneider, who oversees design and production of the line from Palm Beach Gardens, while Grossman takes care of marketing from their hometown of Richmond, Va. “We wanted to design cycling clothes that work on or off the bike, not just for racing. But, performance-wise, they work very well on the bike.’’
The polo-like jerseys echo the classic look of pre-Lycra European road-racing kits, featuring solid colors and sewn-on striping, a small crown emblem, discreet accents in Dutch orange, and de rigeur rear pockets. Road Holland has also seized on a throwback trend in cycling by blending soft merino wool, the material of choice for racers before synthetic fibers conquered the peloton, into its signature jerseys. The jerseys are fitted but not snug, unlike the Lycra racing jerseys that leave too many recreational cyclists looking like sausages encased in shrinkwrap.
The low-key styling and the unique fabric, which Schneider says provides unusual comfort and durability under a wide range of conditions, have proven a hit.
Sales of the jerseys, priced at $105 to $150, have doubled every year, Schneider said. The company makes from 300 to 400 units of each of its 10 models for men and women, and has two seasons per year. Most are sold online and ship from a warehouse in Palm Beach County, but Road Holland has also built a network of a dozen bike-shop dealers that stretches from Bend, Ore., to Israel and Osaka, Japan.
At Dean Apparel, the Hialeah factory where Road Holland’s jerseys are made under contract, several seamstresses working under the supervision of owner Alexandra Pedrosa are now busily sewing the fall and winter line, including long-sleeved models for men and women and a new item, a lightweight cycling vest for cool-weather riding.
After an inaugural run in China proved costly and cumbersome, Schneider brought production home to South Florida, where he was happily surprised to find dedicated craftspeople close at hand who could meet his exacting standards.
“I love making it here,’’ he said. “These people take real ownership of their work.’’
Hialeah once boasted a thriving apparel industry, but it dwindled as U.S. production shifted overseas in search of cheaper labor. While some production has shifted back, volumes remain low, and Pedrosa has kept the business going in part because “it’s my passion,’’ she said.