For Park Tool, a nice ride from St. Paul bike shop to global bike tool giant

The bike shop in St. Paul’s Hazel Park neighborhood didn’t look like much in the 1960s. But Howard Hawkins and shop partner Art Engstrom knew their stuff.  Searching for a practical way to work on bikes without bending over, they built a stand using table legs and a truck axle.

What it lacked in beauty it made up for in brilliance. Park Tool was born.

Fifty years later, Park is the largest maker of bike tools in the world — still run from St. Paul by Howard’s son Eric. Maybe more impressive: Most of the  300-plus parts the company makes now are manufactured here.

As Minnesota bike entrepreneurs, like Quality Bicycle Products CEO Steve Flagg, dream of manufacturing an all Minnesota-made bike to compete with China and other Asian powerhouses, Park offers a path.

Roughly 75 percent of the parts the company makes are made in St. Paul, said marketing director Bill Armas. The company’s working to bring some of that remaining 25 percent back to St. Paul.  Park Tool recently brought back an internal part for one of their PRS-2 Shop Repair Stands

Take a look behind the scenes at Park Tool

“All of the parts we brought back in-house are internal parts of larger tools,” Armas said.

“Often the lead time question is the biggest factor” in deciding to make a part or tool in St Paul versus China,” he said. “When you are making a larger tool that relies on a smaller part you don’t want the product sitting on the shelf collecting dust while waiting for the small part to get off the boat from China.”

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