Rumors, Speculation and Joe Garland

posted by dpm on 02/06/2010

The press release from Mad Rock came in response to the rumors, speculation, and press releases that had surfaced surrounding the company and their former employee Joe Garland.
Santa Fe Springs, CA February 5, 2010:  Mad Rock is pleased to announce Kenny Suh, who has been with Mad Rock since 2007, as head of the company’s global sales and marketing team.  Joseph Garland, a contracted sales rep with Mad Rock, announced his departure early January.  Mad Rock’s sole owner and president Young Chu assures his customers that operations will resume as normal.  “Our in-house staff as well as the US and International sales team is excited about the changes and look forward to an even better 2010.”   
Mad Rock Climbing is happy to announce that the move from China to Vietnam was a success.  “Even though the transition was difficult, it was a necessary move in the face of overwhelming price increases in China.  We will be able to pass on savings to the dealers and the consumers without sacrificing quality or innovation, which has been the cornerstone of Mad Rock’s philosophy.”
A few months ago, Mad Rock announced the departure of its long time representative Joe Garland.  Joe, had become an icon in the climbing industry. Both loved and feared by those in the industry, Joe’s departure came as a shock to those who were under the impression that Joe Garland WAS Mad Rock. The first press release publicizing Garland’s departure from Mad Rock came from Joe’s camp in early January. It read:
Santa Fe Springs, CA January 11, 2010-- Joe Garland, one of the founders of Mad Rock Climbing departed that company late last week in a self-described amicable split.  “While I’m happy to have seen sales increase a full 25% this year in the face of major budget cuts and the overall economy, I’m still disappointed I was not able to do more for the dealers, the climbing team and the factory personnel,” said Garland.   He went on to say that his immediate plans include taking some time off to go surfing and ice climbing, then attend the upcoming Outdoor Retailer and ISPO shows to research and weigh his options and opportunities.
This press release was followed up by a short SNEWS report from Michael Hodgson. SNEWS reported that Young Chu, owner of Nelson Sports, Mad Rock’s parent company, reported that indeed Mad Rock and Joe Garland had made an amicable split, but that Joe never had ownership in Mad Rock and was not a founding partner. Young Chu suggested the departure was likely the result of the company’s decision to restructure commissions.
Joe responded to Hodgson’s follow up questions by saying simply, ““I will have a very good answer to everyone’s questions (not just yours) in two weeks. Thanks for contacting me. Sorry to be so cryptic. The reply is worth waiting for.”
Two weeks later, Joe Garland’s reply was delivered in this press release:
February 5, 2010: Joseph Garland, a founding member of Mad Rock Climbing since its inception in 2002 who announced his departure from the company in early January has returned to the industry, and is now working for Mad Rock’s parent company and manufacturer.  Three of Mad Rock’s original partners: Alex Kim, Ken Kim and Joe Garland will continue the business under the new name “Climb X,” with Joe Garland being named its new President.  Original Mad Rock President and partner Young Chu will retain the Mad Rock name, but is no longer a member of this group.  Climb X will assume the former Mad Rock operation, its distributors, most of its sales reps, international staff, warehouse, factory & production, and product development facility, as well as its Chinese and international warehouse facilities. Joe Garland, who was responsible for most of the newer products developed at Mad Rock, will be working out of offices in Portland Oregon, with satellite offices in Munich, Germany and Beijing, China.
The Plot Thickens
Kenny Suh, the new Director of Sales and Marketing for Mad Rock had this to say, “As we have said before, Joe was not and is not an owner or founder of Mad Rock. Alex Kim was our Production Manager in China and was never an owner or a founder of Mad Rock. Kenny Kim? I don’t know who that is. Maybe he is Alex’s relative or something, but as far as I know he has never worked at Mad Rock.
What is true is that Mad Rock will no longer be manufactured in the same facility as in the past. “We are re-branding Mad Rock”, said Kenny. “We have already moved our entire production from China to Vietnam in an effort to improve quality control.”
As for Joe’s claim that he was responsible for the recent Mad Rock product designs, Kenny says, “That is simply not true. Joe Garland was contracted as a consultant for sales and marketing team only. He had no dealings with the factory in China or sourcing anywhere else.”
Digging Further
A quick visit to Climb X's website redirected us to, the online website of Pagan Mountaineering, located in Moab, Utah. Later, it was changed to redirect traffic to another website. We stopped by Pagan on our way home from the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show, a show that both Joe Garland and Mad Rock attended, albeit separately. Unfortunately, Pagan Mountaineering was packing up shop last week for remodeling and no one was available for comment.
Brian Jonas, part owner in Pagan Mountaineering, is currently amidst a legal battle with Joe Garland over ownership of the store and online retail shop. This lawsuit and the Climb X site re-direction only add to the confusion surrounding this industry drama making these series of press releases even harder to follow.
Joe Garland did not respond to our emails or phone calls inquiring further about Climb X. It is safe to say he is a busy man. It is unclear if Climb X will position itself in the market as a new climbing shoe. What is clear is that Joe Garland, although no longer part of Mad Rock, is still a colorful character in our climbing community. We look forward to seeing what comes of his future endeavors.