Bergstrom Skegs humble beginnings
The seeds for Bergstrom Skegs were sown in 1969. While my older brother, Gary and I were in Viet Nam our father wrote us each a letter. He had been involved with special alloys since 1952 and was now trouble shooting wear problems for industry. The cost of downtime and replacement parts was a major motivation for them to upgrade materials, while making repairs. Though he did not have a specific product in mind, he believed the public would prefer more durable products.
We almost started in Green Bay, WI, just over 60 miles from Fond du Lac, where Gary and I graduated from high school. In 1973 we chose Rockford, IL because it had trucking terminals, that allowed us to bypass the notorious bottlenecks of Chicago, going East.
In 1971 one of our fathers co-workers asked him if he could make a skeg ( wear rod ) for some Johnson and Mercury snowmobiles. He made him three pair. Stan Burdick and his friends Boyce Sparkman and Chet Scott, members of the IL Top of the State Snowmobile Club, came back for more that same season. Our father could not believe the skegs had worn out in just 500 miles, on snow of all things. Stan said something like this, "Archie, I'm not complaining! I want more! In the best of snow, in Northern IL, I only get up to 200 miles out of standard skegs. You will be able to sell millions of these!"
Working on a shoe string, it took us from 1973 to 1976 to develop our welding fixtures and process. At the time there was not a welder that had enough power or a heavy enough duty cycle. We had to modify a different type of power source. At the same time my father worked with his metallurgist friends to develop an alloy that gave us the wear results we wanted.
We sent out samples to the major snowmobile manufacturers, for testing. I only went with my father to one manufacturer, so this is the only first hand story I can tell. We met with the engineering department first. They were happy with the wear results and took us to talk with marketing. After it was explained how durable our rods were, the meeting was cut short. I cannot quote their response , but it went something like this; If snowmobilers want a better skeg than our original equipment steel rod, they can buy OEM carbides. There is no point in selling another type of skeg.
My interpretation goes like this; If their $5.00 OEM steel rods were not good enough for snowmobilers, they could buy $30.00 OEM carbides. Why sell a more durable skeg for $12.00pr ? That viewpoint has always been our biggest obstacle to overcome. SAVING SNOWMOBILERS MONEY IS NOT CONSIDERED SMART BUSINESS! We ended up selling to about a dozen aftermarket distributors until we went exclusive in 1982.
Our goals were and always will be to provide the most cost effective and functional product on the market. I am proud to say we are still meeting these goals.
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