It’s a question that I get asked all the time. Like a lot of good things in life it all started with a motorcycle. Trying to support my socially acceptable university ambitions with my socially unacceptable motorcycle habit, I required an income. I landed a part-time job at a small gas station, converted a motorcycle shop called b.A. Trailer on walker rd. In windsor, ontario and soon I was hooked. I got my high school teaching degree and after a short stint in the class room, I found out I liked motorcycles more than kids. With a big dose of ambition, I bought that little motorcycle shop, signed my life away and opened my first motorcycle dealership, parker bros. Motors on april fools’ day, 1980. The worst recession in 50 years and 20% interest rates didn’t dampen my enthusiasm or tolerance for risk. Soon my one store in windsor was joined by stores in detroit and toronto. I sold hundreds of motorcycles and thousands of jackets.
I figured that there must be a better way than trying to sell motorcycle jackets with european sounding names that no one could say. The concept for joe rocket was born and scratched out on my kitchen table on riverside drive. apparently, I had three things standing in my way to apparel success. I didn’t really know anything about design, I didn’t really know anything about manufacturing and just about everyone told me that joe rocket was the dumbest name they ever heard. Thankfully, my new business partner marc bay didn’t agree. He quit his job selling insurance, I sold my retail stores and in 1994, off we went to stake our joe rocket claim.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. For six long years, we told anyone who would listen how wonderful joe rocket was. We hooked up with randy robison, a bigger than life mormon minister from idaho. Together we took on the big guys, perfected the art of driving diesel trucks in the middle of the night, digesting poutine in quebec city, and making fun of ourselves for being canadian. It finally started to get some traction and we started selling joe rocket jackets. Soon, we became the poster kids for “Careful what you wish for”. The ballistic jacket hit the market and we sold a thousand pieces of one style. Marc and I went and got a case of beer to celebrate. After six years of bustin’ it we suddenly were an “Overnight sensation”. The invention of the phoenix mesh jacket broke the dam and we sold a hundred thousand pieces. People stopped calling me bruce, and started calling me “Joe”.
If I tried to explain to you what the new millennium brought to joe rocket it would be nearly impossible. It was a motorcycle tidal wave embraced by riders everywhere. I wrote steve crevier a personal letter once, asking him to wear joe rocket and he reluctantly agreed. We had a paid professional athlete, and we went racing! Next came a 17 year old kid named nicky hayden and soon we were the racing kings. We got to work with some of the best: mat mladin, ben spies, miguel duhamel, tommy hayden, jordan szoke, eddie lawson, kevin schwantz, chris carr, jay springstein, gary nixon, kurtis roberts, pascal picotte, roger hayden.
We won the canadian superbike championship nine years straight, more races in the ama than you can count, the isle of man tt, the australian and the new zealand superbike championship. I remember standing on the podium with marc and randy after winning the daytona 200 1-2-3 with mladin, spies, and duhamel and asking myself “How the hell did I get here?”. At last count, joe rocket has won 40 championships around the world.
As you might expect, suddenly joe rocket wasn’t the dumbest name ever heard of anymore and people started asking who the “Marketing genius” was that came up with such a “Cool” name.
Along the way I got to rub shoulders with the best people in the motorcycle business, hang with michael jordan, make movies with vin diesel and jet li, get to sign my customers jackets and have my picture taken with hundreds of my customers wives. I’ve heard thousands of smiling testimonials about how joe rocket riders have hit a car, a truck, a tree, a moose and lived to ride another day. I’ve had customers ride to every corner of the earth in their joe rocket jacket, get married in their joe rocket jacket…Even had a few get the tattoo.
Like any success story the joe rocket story isn’t about the effort of one individual. It’s not just my story but the story of riders everywhere. From toronto to tokyo, montreal to miami, riders love joe rocket…And with some luck the joe rocket story will go on for a long time. In 2009 we started a new era in the history of joe rocket. Joe rocket canada opened as an entirely new company and separate entity from it’s u.S. Counterpart. Joe rocket canada brings the best to all canadian riders and the unique demands of motorcycling in the “Great white north”. Our new offices are only 100 feet from that little motorcycle shop I opened in 1980…
With joe rocket’s help, I’m living proof that canadian motorcycle dreams come true.
As we get ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary, special thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me…
My wife teresa (told you canada was better than california), big bill, uncle ted, marc bay, lance marancie, max charlebois, sean mcphail, adam fox, elyssa mannina, shane prutchick, eddie campeau, steve crevier, rickey gadson, the hayden family, chrisellis, lawrence hacking, joe langlois, matt mladin, dave sonsky, honda canada, kawasaki canada, julie warner, jason draper, emily marley, jen hunter, laura burch, gary ruddock, mark otter, dave & jill grummet, the gamma crew, mike shean, mike hawrylo, dan nowlan, all the great canadian motorcycle dealers, and to everyone who’s ever zipped up a joe rocket jacket.