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Northfork Composites
Posted by: Scott Kelly (---.sub-174-198-1.myvzw.com)
Date: October 23, 2019 10:37PM

I’ve been building rods since my dad taught me when I was 12 years old, 36 years ago now. So while not a “pro” builder, I do pride myself in making quality rods with quality products. In the late 80’/ early 90’s I built several rods on Loomis blanks and always found them to be high quality. Being in WI, I developed a fondness for WI built St Croix blanks from the early 90’s on. With St Croix not selling St Croix/US made blanks anymore (aside from the SCV) and my personal preference for US made products, I was looking for a new source for blanks. After reading on this forum several dissatisfied people who purchased from NFC and had poor experiences, I was leery of them.

Well around Labor Day I got an email from them and a sale that I could not resist. I was hesitant but thought I’d give them a shot anyway. I anticipated a long wait time and I was cautiously optimistic about the quality. All in all, I had 9 blanks on the way. Ordering them in early Sept, I knew that I wouldn’t be using them until next spring, so while I wanted them in my possession, I was prepared for waiting potentially months. I had in my mind that if I didn’t have any information by early/mid-November that I’d inquire about them.

Well after a little over 4 week wait, they all arrived in good condition. Upon inspection they all seem to be the quality that I expected from a Gary Loomis product. I have to admit that I was actually really quite pleased with everything.

I’m hoping by this post that others see something other than the negative reviews, which I am sure some are quite valid (we don’t live in a perfect world). Seeing as most of the negative reviews are based on shipping time, perhaps as a society we have become too accustomed to getting things right now instead of having a little patience and waiting longer than we’d like. It wasn’t too long ago that ordering anything had an expected shipping time of 4-8 weeks, plus you had to mail in a handwritten order form. NFC is a small company and I’m sure has a challenging time keeping up with demand on both producing and shipping. And in trying to keep up with that demand, I can see where answering phone calls inquiring about the status of an order can take a backseat.

Perhaps my experience was an anomaly and I won’t have as good of an experience as I did initially, but I will certainly give them another shot and buy blanks from them again as well as recommend them to others.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: david taylor (---)
Date: October 24, 2019 12:57AM

Who knows if they have issues or not, but a few things might be in play. NFC is probably a fairly small company and likely does not maintain a lot of inventory on their blanks. With NFC you are buying direct from the manufacturer vs a re-seller/distributor who might keep some inventory. Blanks to the public might be a very small part of their business overall. Not making excuses for them. There web site is pretty spartan. But at least it seems they do eventually ship one's orders. they might want to be a little more forthright about the timing.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Terry Kirk (---)
Date: October 24, 2019 11:19AM

No company will survive with poor customer service. The customer service is lacking at NFC and i think those of us who have remained loyal to them have a right to judge them on this. When i order from them i do so knowing it's a crap shoot on when i will get them. They have such an excellent product that for me i will overlook some things. If you are trying to expand in the market CS has to be the first thing to address. Too many other companies blow them away in the area of CS.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Lance Schreckenbach (---.sub-174-233-130.myvzw.com)
Date: October 24, 2019 11:34AM

i believe there was a curve as with any business. It appears there has been somewhat of a resolution to the service issue. I actually received great service on a repair / replacement of a 4pc fly rod tip section. I left an email and also called and got answers within a day or they actually answered the phone. There was even a follow up call to make sure that I was taken care of. Northfork makes a great product and now their service appears to be stepping up. There is always a group of people that cannot stand to see another company or person be successful at what they do so there will always be the doubters, maybe I am just an optimist.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Scott Appley (---.glt-wy.client.bresnan.net)
Date: October 24, 2019 12:39PM

I've have done three different transactions this last year. One order was right away (5 days) the next within 10 days the other took 6 weeks. Every times I told myself the be patient and not be in a hurry. Every blank I have received is quality. I will order again and hope I can remain patient because I know that what I'm going to receive will be worth the money and time I waited.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Dave Orr (---.auroracollege.com)
Date: October 24, 2019 05:54PM

I tried to order from them once and the website wouldn't let me so I sent them an email to order and never got a response.
Won't waste the time trying again. :(

Regards
Dave

Fishing is Life the rest is just Details

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: herb canter (---.atmc.net)
Date: October 24, 2019 07:10PM

I don't believe people don't want to see them do well , just the opposite actually . The complaints have been valid , they haven't been unreasonable at all . I think most everybody wants a top flight manufacturer that builds it's blanks in the USA to succeed .

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Jeff Shafer (---.s2807.c3-0.drf-cbr1.atw-drf.pa.cable.rcncustomer.com)
Date: October 26, 2019 04:34PM

Yes, but does this company want to do well? An equally important question - is this company willing to do what it will take to succeed? These are fundamental business questions many failed businesses never took the time to ask themselves.

"The greatest barrier to discovery is not ignorance, it's the illusion of knowledge" - Daniel J. Boorstin

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Aleks Maslov (---.evrt.wa.frontiernet.net)
Date: October 26, 2019 06:20PM

Scott, all, thank you for your comments and feedback.

Our business model is unique - and it comes with its share of challenges. As far as I know - we are the only factory that manufactures and sells direct to OEM's and custom rod-builders. This means that we are a manufacturer, and a "wholesaler" all in one. I chose this business model as we believe it allows us to compete with imports from China/Taiwan/Vietnam etc.

As many of you know, its often the same factories overseas that are making blanks for Brand A, and Brand B to their 'specs'. Those blanks are imported, marked, up, and then sold to the rod-builder. Most of these blanks are purchased for $7 to $15. Are they good quality blanks? In some cases yes, but we don't read too much into the techno-babble, what offends us is that these blanks are sold for much, much, more than what they were manufactured for (but that is also the nature of "retail' in the US)

Our prices are not based on MSRP - which allows for dealer markup, reseller markup, etc., but they are based on what it costs us to manufacture, plus our overhead to stay in business. This allows for a USA made blank to be comparable in price to marked up imports. [slight digression] Those overseas factories are making a pretty big push to sell their blanks direct - and that will further put pressure on the current re-sellers, as they will be competing with the same factories that supply them - and that will cause changes in the rod building industry in the future. [end of digression]

Our factory direct prices have resulted in massive pressure on our manufacturing, we try to advertise that the lead-time will be 2-5 weeks depending on the time of the year, at times that gets extended. We also compete with companies like Boeing for carbon fiber purchases and allocations. We buy a significant amount, they buy more. If we run out of a specific type of carbon for a blank model - there are not too many substitutes, as a different type changes the flex/action of the blank - and that can push our lead-times further out.

In the last two years, our volume has increased, and so has our "priority" level with our suppliers , so delivery times are getting shorter. If we are running a promotion, we may run out of inventory, but we always stand by to refund your purchase if you are not able to wait - we understand, some customers may not be so patient.

Often times, customer service gets lumped in with long lead times, our focus is quality manufacturing, if we rush it wont be an NFC blank, most of the folks picking up the phone or replying to an email also work in production (including myself). One of my favorite quotes from Gary on company growth, backorders, and lead-times, is asking if he went through something similar with G.Loomis, he leans back and usually says something along the lines of "companies should be allowed to grow, and Pepperidge farm remembers"

Thanks again for your feedback, the buck stops here, we listen, improve, and get better.

Alex

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Anthony Pav (---.115.10.48.res-cmts.prk.ptd.net)
Date: October 27, 2019 09:50PM

Mr. Maslov,

I understand your point about long lead times should not be lumped in with customer service. But when a customer orders your product and reads "Please allow 2-3 weeks for shipment" on the order form then does not receive the order in that time frame and/or is unable to get a email or voice response when contacting NFC; then it most certainly becomes a customer service issue. I believe most customers can accept long lead times, but those extended lead times need to be accurately and honestly communicated.

I can not speak for any other customers but will post my own personal experience. I have placed one order with NFC for two blanks. The order was placed and payment accepted on 7/12/19. Order was shipped on 8/26/19 and received on 8/29/19. When I inspected the blanks there were numerous defects/blemish's on one of the blanks. I immediately contacted NFC about the problems with the blank and sent clear pictures showing the defects. I was told that the issues with my blank were just cosmetic and would not effect the blank in any way and that I would be responsible for return shipping costs. After 14 days and 10+ emails the NFC representative finally agreed to send me a return shipping label for the defective blank. I shipped the defective blank and it was received at NFC on 9/23/19. As of 10/27/19 (34 days) I have not received any update on when/if I am going to get my replacement blank. As of 10/27/19 it has been 107 days since I placed my order and NFC accepted payment for a blank, but I still dont have my blank.

I am not, and never will be, the type who thinks that "The Customer is Always Right". I also dont expect something for free, or want any type of special treatment. But; I dont think its good customer service for a company to expect the customer to either accept a defective product or pay extra to get the a product without numerous defects. I also dont think its acceptable for a customer to have to wait extended periods of time to receive a replacement for a defective product. IMO "Good Customer Service" would have handled the issue with my blank very differently. I believe most companies would have apologized for the defect and rushed a replacement out ASAP.

Tony

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Spencer Phipps (---)
Date: October 28, 2019 01:41AM

If you think even the big guys have blanks just waiting around to send out at a moments notice, you haven't been doing this long enough, I've waited for blanks from virtually all the manufacturers. Blanks are built and ordered to be built in batches, till the minimum number is met they can't economically build the blank model you desire. I'm sure you can order 25 of each model you want and get them fairly quickly, worked for me, or invest in the business around a quarter million dollars and they can double production.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/28/2019 01:54AM by Spencer Phipps.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: david taylor (---)
Date: October 28, 2019 01:24PM

As one who works for a Fortune 500 American manufacturer, i witness the constant pressures of customer service and foreign competition every day. For a smaller manufacturer, those pressures are even more difficult to deal with. Just look at St. Croix. Basically pulled out of the DIY U.S. made blank business this year, a necessary business decision. If you look at many U.S. fly rod companies right now, many of their business models is to is to source product and have it wrapped in Korea to their specs. It's an efficient business model and arguably necessary for survival and profit, but very few, if any of them, offer blanks -- I think only TFO on a few of their models. The OEMs that do offer blanks -- Sage, Winston -- are not making tons of money doing it. And there is a reason their rods cost $800 to $1,000. By selling blanks they are more feeding a passion point than making a large impact. None of these rod companies are making a ton of money, as many are run out of the lifelong passion of their owners. I am not desiring to defend or dump on NFC. But if you want high-quality blanks that are made in the U.S., then you likely need to pay a premium for that product and/or also be willing to wait for product delivery. If you want the least expensive (but decent) blank possible, then you are going to need to buy from a product sourced from Asia. If people made a bunch of money on blanks, then Orvis, Cabela's and others would still be offering them, and secondary companies like Dan Craft would still be in business. Batson top end blanks -- such as Eternity -- I believe are made in the U.S. I am not sure what other blanks in the Batson, PacBay, MudHole or Hook and Hackle world are made domestically. If you want a $100 or less blank then it is likely going to have to come from Asia. I would think the vast majority of NFC business and revenue is through providing blanks to OEMs, not to DIYers such as most on this forum. I hope NFC can survive as an American-based company, but their road is not an easy one. In most instances, I am in no rush to make a fly rod. So if I want one of their blanks, so long as I am informed of wait times, I can put up with that fact. When it comes to DIY, I also made high-fidelity speakers. In recent years many OEM speaker companies have pulled out of the DIY market, and for the same reason many fly rod companies are not in the blank selling business.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Aleks Maslov (---)
Date: October 28, 2019 11:21PM

Tony,

Thanks for your note.

Here is our typical process when we receive a support request like the one you describe.

1) we are not perfect - we inspect our blanks prior to shipping them out, but in some cases we miss a defect.
2) the first email you received was from a support specialist that looked at the pictures you most likely provided. We don’t coat our blanks, most of the “defect” emails we receive are as a result of a swirl, or a piece of a fiber trapped on the surface. Most companies would sand them off, we don’t. We buff/polish not to damage the outside fiber. Most of our blanks (if looked at very, very closely) will have some of this similarity. We believe that not sanding blanks makes them stronger and crisper. Others would cover that up.
3) the third email you received is from an escalation manager from probably received a follow up email from you, and agreed to send you a replacement - as an element of customer service and to keep you happy.
4) I am fairly certain they are keeping an eye out for a blank that they think you will be happy with, I don’t have all the information but I would imagine that you are waiting on a XRay Blank, just as we are waiting on our fiber allocation to make them from Hexcel.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Aleks Maslov (---)
Date: October 28, 2019 11:40PM

David,

You get it. Once you add the need to purchase fiber exclusivity from US manufactures to differentiate, and then the R&D expense to bring that to market. Then you have tooling expenses, US labor, health, 401K - which results in high material costs, and high labor costs. In addition, the longer you are in business the longer the warranty exposure grows, and you are competing against folks that are quick to offer a “lifetime” replacement on a $7 Blank they brought in and sold for $50.

It’s easier to focus on OEMs for all of the reasons you describe. However, I /we believe that custom rod builders help you push the R&D envelope, are often quicker to react to market, and push you to be a better company in terms of quality. Gary started as a custom rod builder, it’s a part of our heritage and will continue to be even if he is no longer here.

We “upset” some folks by going direct, and many take our message that paying for markups has no impact on Blank quality as abrasive - so be it.

Best Regards,
Alex

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: david taylor (---)
Date: October 29, 2019 12:47AM

Good luck, Aleks. Glad you engaged the members of the forum, regardless of where they fall out on the topic. Consumers and folks often yap about the need to buy American, but many will simply purchase based on a price point. For many consumers goods, you can't have it both ways. It generally costs more to produce in the U.S. for most consumer goods. If the origin of a product is a key factor in the mind of those in this forum, then they have to be willing to pay to support. It is often that simple. If people want to see production and factory jobs in the U.S., then they must also support. Go to Winston in Twin Bridges, Montana. Workers there are not getting rich. But they do have a wealth of pride in the high-quality product they produce, but that product is also a premium priced product. Same with Simm's down the pike in Bozeman. Or Ross Reels in Montrose, Colorado. North Fork is making high quality blanks in the U.S. and is also selling to DIY rod builders. In my opinion, that is a very good thing for DIYers and small-scale rod makers. Count how many rod blank manufacturers or re-sellers have closed shop in recent years. They could not compete with import products. For those of us who like to wrap rods, for whatever reason, we need to have a variety of choices out there, including higher end U.S. made products. As a footnote, if this discussion can help resolve some folks NFC communication and service issues, that's a good thing too. I have absolutely no skin in this game, other than occasionally enjoying wrapping a fly rod or two.

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Lance Schreckenbach (---.lightspeed.hstntx.sbcglobal.net)
Date: October 30, 2019 02:05AM

One of you geniuses should get into making carbon fiber prepreg for industrial and recreational use. There is obviously a shortage and I now know what market to invest in. Thanks

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Re: Northfork Composites
Posted by: Anthony Pav (---.115.10.48.res-cmts.prk.ptd.net)
Date: November 01, 2019 09:03AM

Mr Moslov,

I dont doubt there are situations where unavailability of raw materials makes completing customer orders impossible. I also understand that mistakes happen and defective product sometimes makes it to the customer. Its how those situations are handled and communicated between NFC and the customer which separates good customer service from bad/no customer service.

I dont think its unreasonable for a customer to expect a update if their order cant be completed in NFC's advertised 2-3 weeks. I also dont think it is unreasonable for a customer to expect a reply to their emails concerning a overdue order, a defect return, and/or a refund. IMO it's just basic courtesy and customer service.

Concerning the X-Ray blanks; what is the current time frame for the delivery of materials, production of the blanks, and deliver to the customer?

Tony



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/01/2019 09:34AM by Anthony Pav.

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