Upcoming Shop Closures & Order Notes

Please Read Carefully

New (Updated) Note As Of 7/31/21. PLEASE READ OUR COVID-19 NOTE.

Please read the new note, or expect to suffer the consequences of your self-imposed refusal to know what you might have known. I take the time to write this stuff primarily for the benefit of my clients, secondarily for the benefit of my staff and myself.

Thank you all so much for your support – it is immensely appreciated! We’re hard at work in the time of corona. Excepting our regular shop closures, GW & Peak Bamboo are open for e-commerce business. This new letter features shop closure updates; clearly stated shop rules; Arrivals & Departures; and an opportunity you probably weren’t expecting.

Hey Folks, We are OPEN from 7/8/21 at 6 AM EST Through 8/19/21 at 6 PM EST. I’ll be in the shop until the break planned for August 20th – 30th, though I may move the break ‘up’ to an earlier August week if the orders continue to stack up like they have been and I need to have a catch-up span of time. If the bamboo orders stack up too deeply, I may close the shop so I can spend a week in the warehouse in late July or early August in order to clear those orders off my plate. I’m almost busier than I can manage, so please be sure to get your orders with custom items and bamboo in well ahead of your needs. The dates are extremely tenuous at this point, but we will be closed again in early fall, possibly October 8th – 18th. And it’s even more barely possible – forgive the stilted sentence construction – that we’ll be out of the country in late November over Thanksgiving Week so that Steph can run a foreign marathon. As usual, we’ll be closed from somewhere near Christmas Eve, probably December 23rd, through early January, perhaps 1/3/22. Time flies.

Thanks in advance for your patience (there’s that word again) as we all adjust to the fact that Drake left the company to pursue college full time (currently he’s in a intensive University of Pennsylvania coding seminar, but since it’s on-line he opted to take the class from an outpost in southern Mexico where he can dive in his free time; expense-wise it wasn’t much of a toss up between a month of rent in Philly vs. a full summer on the shady outskirts of a tropical resort town).

Plan ahead, order ahead. That’s kind of like “aim small, miss small” in that, if you follow this guideline, then you’re less likely to be disappointed with the outcome. Please, plan ahead and order well in advance of your needs. It’s not unusual for us to have the “Patience” slider posted on the front page of the website and that means our backlog on custom parts is deeper than the old usual of 7-10 business days and could be stretched out three to six weeks, not including shop closure windows. These are real projections of possible lag times so please don’t imagine you’ll see your parts sooner than the longest span we currently mention on the website (and it could be a week or so longer than our best guess – rats). We are blessed to be EXTREMELY busy right now. Some rodmakers have emailed to ask if we really are this busy. Yes. Golden Witch has, after over two decades of being in business, been “discovered” by rodmakers around the world – North America (North Pole, AK!), South America (Brazil!), Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa….every continental where except the outposts on Antarctica, but to make up for that small lack, we have clients in many places that aren’t continental, too (Faroe Islands! Majorca! New Zealand!). This growth wasn’t sudden, but the growth curve has been steep this last year. There have been many days in 2021 that we’ve packed more than three times our daily average of packages from last year. At the bottom of this long note I’ll address how I plan to manage this unprecedented growth. And, no, I’m not hiring.

If you’re a seasoned GW client and you already manage to follow all these rules as a matter of course, please know I’m not shouting about them to annoy you. Skim them, but don’t linger – nothing consequential has changed except that I’m not quietly admonishing folks any longer. I’m being visually noisy (bold, caps) primarily to capture the attention of new clients who haven’t yet adapted to our way of doing business. In order for our tiny staff to function, PLEASE follow our simple rules and know that we will not make exceptions for you. Yes, I am being more blunt here than I have ever been before. Let this bluntness be the evidence skeptics seem to require to know that we are almost unimaginably busy. If a maker emails and asks about one of the topics mentioned in these ‘rules,’ I am no longer going to respond with a polite email of explanation as I have done for years. I’m going to refer the writer to this letter. If that person can’t be bothered to read the rules, oh well. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t take the time to write this stuff up if I wasn’t plagued, on a near-daily basis, by emails requesting exceptions to our shop policies. All these shop policies are all outlined, probably in more detail, on our shipping policy page.

1) There Are NO Phone Consults, EVER. The GW Shop literally does not have a telephone and I do not carry a cell phone. There are several reasons for this, foremost among them that I don’t have time to stop working in order to manage phone conversations. Further, I spent my youth heavily involved in competitive shooting, rifle & pistol, small bore and large bore; Suffice to say, my hearing isn’t the best and phone conversations are no fun for anyone. Please understand that ALL business is conducted through our webstore and all communication is conducted by email. If you’re the sort who absolutely demands to speak with me if I’m to earn your business, please order a large pile of bamboo and meet me at the warehouse for pick-up, or take your business to someone who is less busy and don’t waste my time requesting an exception. All the folks currently on our order list have survived without hearing my voice. On the kinder flip side of all this, I write detailed responses to serious rodmaking questions. I earn my living through a combination of making nice parts and providing better than average service – so long as you’re willing to work with me and chat by email.

2) There Are NO Shipping Discounts, EVER. (Unless you order $500.00 or more of small parts to be delivered domestically, then we’ll pay the shipping.) Ponder this: If GW is backlogged several weeks on custom orders, I probably don’t need to offer a given maker a discount on shipping in order to ‘earn’ their business. If a maker is the sort of maker who expects discounts, they should do business with a discounter. On the other hand, if you prefer good service, and a huge depth of inventory, reasonably quick shipping on orders with no custom products, etc., then we’d love to work with you. Usually it’s someone ordering a tiptop who wants discounted shipping. Trust me, even with our shipping rates GW is losing money by providing the courtesy of shipping low-dollar orders. Yes, we are considering putting a minimum order in place; we haven’t only because sometimes our great clients do forget to order a tiptop or a winding check and they need one tiny part fast.

3) There Are NO Shop Visits, EVER. This refers to the GW shop. We still host visits to our bamboo warehouse if a maker orders a large quantity of bamboo and wants to avoid shipping charges. But, just as with phone calls, we do not have the time to manage in-person visits to the Golden Witch shop. My rodmaking, in-town, neighbors have to order through the website and I ship their parts. If a maker knocks on our front door (please don’t, it upsets the pack of dogs), I politely usher them away and tell them to order through the website. Every time. Please don’t think you’ll be the exception, even if you drive three hours to get here and offer me good beer.

4) There Are NO Add-On Orders Allowed, EVER. Add-on orders became a particular plague; please read the policy page. We no longer add items to orders or otherwise manipulate orders. Orders are sealed ‘as-is’ when you choose to submit them. Each transaction is a two-way contract between consenting adults (kids – I know you’re out there, and I’m only aiming this comment at the ones who have abused their privileges – please have your responsible adult read the rules BEFORE you order bamboo again using their credit card). I expect makers to order in a slow and responsible fashion – choose the proper sizes, choose the correct quantities, and be sure you order everything on the list you jotted down before settling into the task of placing an on-line order. In return, short of dying, I will get you nice parts in a reasonable span of time. I will GLADLY email back and forth with you about sizes, quantities, ferrule types, silk colors, anything of this sort, BEFORE you order. I really am a nice person, I’m just a nice person with a crushing schedule, so it’s far easier for me to guide you before you order than it is to fix your errors after you order. Please never be the person who places the order, then writes to say, “I’m not sure if I ordered the correct parts.” We have Black Spots, and this sort of behavior will earn you a Black Spot. This isn’t as severe as a Treasure Island Black Spot, but if you pick up three of them on your file, we will politely ask you to take all your business elsewhere. If you forget to order your tiptop for the second rod tip, please feel free to order it, just remember Rule #2.

5) Custom Products Are Not Returnable Or Exchangeable, EVER. This should be blitheringly obvious, but in our society where the younger generations have been taught that there are no consequences for their actions, I apparently have to spell it out. If maker contracts me to make a part ‘custom’ (in any way I define as custom, since you’re approaching our shop under no compulsion to do business with us), then you may not decide after you order – or after you receive the part – that you don’t want that part. If you don’t love it, save it for another project or sell it to another maker. This No Cancellation/No Return or Exchange policy is clearly stated here and on our policy page and stating it plain has, and will, defeat any effort to go through PayPal or a Credit Card firm to instigate a chargeback; don’t try, we win…and it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time. (Arguing about a return or exchange on a custom product is the quickest way to earn all three Black Spots in one particularly foul swoop – and you can’t earn more because I’ll have already asked you to do business elsewhere; for the uninitiated a ‘foul swoop’ is similar to a ‘fell swoop’ but it bears entirely negative connotations.) Whether ‘custom’ is as simple as bluing a little widget, or as complex as laying gold into the grooves of a reel seat and bluing around the gold highlights, custom parts are YOURS once ordered. The same goes for agate guides, wood reel seat inserts, and other natural products as discussed elsewhere on this website. The god of your heritage (I’m being broadly ecumenical here, so please don’t find a way to take offense at the lowercase ‘g’ – I did time in Seminary as a graduate student, so I’m sensitive to the thousand issues surrounding even so much as naming the deity and I’m using the lower case ‘god’ to stand in for the Ineffable, with a capital “I”), perhaps hand in hand with Mother Nature, had more impact on the visual aspects, pro or con, of the natural products you order than I do. The guide you ordered and received is the guide you get to keep. Revel in the natural aspects. With agate guides especially, don’t IMAGINE they’ll be some particular shade of this or that color, or that the bands will be ‘just so.’ Expect only and exclusively the unexpected (monochrome guides excepted). Order your guides, then order a tipping silk to compliment or to contrast. Be bold…order a spool of black Kimono silk with every guide you order, and put a note in the comments section that I should pick the best silk color possible to (match/contrast) with the agate you’ll be receiving…just be sure to mention this INSIDE the order not in a separate email, so that I send you an appropriate silk when I’m packing your order six weeks hence.

6) Be Patient & Be Kind, ALWAYS. If I live to see a century of life, I’m already in my second half. Odds are, judging from my male forebears’ tendency to croak at the very moment they get serious about retiring, that I’m already well beyond the half-way mark. At this point, I have close to zero tolerance for impatient and unkind people. I am very quick to tell certain folks to take their business elsewhere. There are hungrier component suppliers who will put up with all manner of ill behavior to earn a buck. I’m not them. The good news for you, since you’re not one of the other thems (those who are impatient and unkind), is that I have more time to help decent folks like yourself. Win-Win. Within the scope of Golden Witch, I typically work twelve-hour days. Frankly, that’s too much. I will be making changes to move into, as I joke, semi-retirement. For me, semi-retirement will be a return to eight-hour work days, and only seven days a week. To do this, two things are going to happen. First, the prices on all GW-crafted items are going up in the near future, starting last week. This should temper the enthusiasm of rodmakers around the world. Second, the lag time will grow – or shrink – to accommodate the workload, as opposed to me increasing my work hours further and further. I’ve put in some sixteen-hour days recently and I’m done with that. I want to paddle my canoe, walk my dog (only one of our pack is ‘my’ dog; we’re a dog family, as anyone who has inspected their packing tape too-closely will know), go fishing – and spend more time with my family. Success was killing me, draining my enthusiasm for a craft I love to the core of my being. Now I’m adjusting GW to manage that success – and I’ve re-gained my enthusiasm. For you, this means order early and then expect a delay before I ship custom parts. (“Is it done yet? Is it done yet? Is it done yet?” – that’ll also earn you a Black Spot – and, yes, former clients of this sort have happened, and they’ve been dismissed.) Thank you in advance for your continued business, and your kind patience. Those of you who continue to do business with GW will know that you’re supporting a craftsman who intends to make world-class parts while still enjoying life outside the shop.

OK – with that bit of bluntness out of the way, let’s continue …

If you need ferrules now and a guide in six weeks, please place two orders – one with exclusively non-custom items (inquire by email BEFORE ordering if you’re unsure) and one with all your custom items. If you email, please stick tightly to business topics and title your email appropriately, e.g., “Fitting Ferrules” or “Guide Sizes.” Whenever possible, please track your own packages using the tracking number that either the USPS or UPS should have provided you when we shipped; please understand every request to track delayed packages slows us down on getting the next maker’s order out the door. Many packages are being delayed in transit, largely due to Covid challenges, so keep your tracking emails when they arrive and keep tabs on your packages directly through the shippers’ websites. Thanks!

Departures.  YLI stock continues to shrink. You already know Pearsall’s silk supplies are dwindling rapidly. When the price of our regular inventory hits $12.95/spool, that means we have 48 or fewer spools. That’s our max price for GW’s original inventory. We did buy out one retiring rodmaker, so we have a very limited number of spools at higher prices. Sorry fellows, but we’re not planning to buy out any additional silk stashes. When this stuff sells down, it’s gone. Our A+ bamboo inventory is getting lower; once it sells out we will not bring in more bamboo until the A grade inventory is low, so if you want the good stuff, get it. We’re having trouble acquiring and keeping Glace Cotton Binding Thread in stock….when we have it, buy it if you’ll need it in the next year. Unless the manufacturer changes their mind, the torches are gone for good. Very sorry about that. Expect to see more “Sale” items as we begin the process of closing out non-essential product lines. The busier we are making guides, the less time we have to manage slow-selling, odd-ball items. We are very actively cutting back our number of SKUs.

Arrivals. It’s been a good month! A+ Cork is back in stock. Our Premier Roughing & Intermediate Forms are back in stock. Oxpho-Blue is back in stock. Rottenstone is back in stock. Rattan is back in all sizes (but in limited quantities until our back-ordered material arrives in October or November). We are chasing down a number of other much needed items so keep your eye on this Arrivals list, and on the front page of our website. Our large diameter Custom Contact Points are back in stock. Check out the Depth Gauge Package page for these sweet points: HERE. Limited supply, and we probably won’t make them again. Our Six-Section Pie Splitters – the most popular configuration – are finally back in stock, again. Limited supply as always, so get one if you need one. If you need particularly nice bamboo, check out our Select Cut A+ Culms which were recently posted to this site. These are all 6′ sticks, the best 6′ cut from culms that should have been A+, but which had an unfortunate flaw on one end or the other. What’s left in the 6′ we kept is damn fine bamboo. Our 2020 A+ Cork is sold out; Good news, though, is that we’re getting another shipment in mid-July, so watch for that and grab the best cork while we’ve got it. The most exciting thing to keep your eye on is our Hydro-Welded Guides – made start to finish in the Golden Witch shop. We’ll also be opening a new section of the webstore devoted to pre-made guides featuring these Hydro-Welded frames….guides you can have shipped immediately as non-custom rod jewelry, if you order them while each batch, or individual guide, is available. During the Christmas break, I made about thirty guides that will be listed either the Founder’s Series or the Franken-Stone series. These Hydro-Welded Guides are the first non-custom, light production guides to bear the Golden Witch name (all our other light production guides had been tagged with the Arcane Component Works brand). Speaking as the maker, these are the guides I’ve been working up to my entire career. Finally, watch for more Pigments of the Earth to tint your grips!

Missing Emails. If you think we’ve ignored an email that you sent, please check your spam or junk file because we diligently respond to all customer emails (many emails have gone astray recently). Thanks! If you’re positive we are missing your emails, maybe there is a server glitch. It happens. Read the Contact page carefully for a work-around.

Custom Parts & Special Orders. Please order custom products – agate guides, anything that must be blued, that sort of thing – at least six weeks prior to the start of any future shop closure if you want the order shipped with utter certainty before that closure; custom orders with shorter lead times may be completed, and often are, but no promises. Yes, the long lag time means you may need to plan to order parts now so that you receive them before the SECOND up-coming shop closure. Orders with only non-custom items usually ship the business day after you place the order, even in the run-up towards a shop closure; we hustle to get your orders out the door and in your hands – but bear in mind that many things you think can’t possibly be custom, are (shop-made hook tenders are a prominent example). You must plan ahead if you want guides because I rarely ship in less than three weeks and it often ranges up to six weeks. The prices will be rising slightly on all custom items as part of my effort to both find a better work/life balance and to stock up on parts for what looks like a busy year ahead. One of our good clients pointed out that we didn’t have a straightforward method outlined for making special orders. Please see our Contact page or our Shipping Policy page for new details on Special Order items.

Freebies. As many of you have noticed, we’ve switched up our freebies over the past couple months and now we’re sending out scads of vintage parts, mostly all-metal tips and guides. I realized I’ll never sell through the half million or so guides (really, that’s not an exaggeration) taking up room on the GW shelves, so I’m giving many away. My hope is that when you receive something that’s a little oddball relative to the normal parts you order, you’ll be inspired to create a rod that fits the free components. Try making a boat rod, a trolling rod, a casting rod, a spinning rod, a coarse rod, or a light flyrod that can benefit from teeny prong tiptops. Please don’t throw the vintage parts away – they have real, practical, value in our world of angling craftsmen and women. Trade them. Gift them. Help them find a home on custom crafted tackle. Giving away thousands of dollars’ worth of inventory may seem like an odd way to stay in business, but I’m gambling on the fact that when you put these parts to good use, you’ll need ferrules, silks, cork, and more. We’re going to give away parts until they are gone, which will take years. Sorry – no requests on freebies. If I have to dig for particular items, they’re billed at retail.

Closure Math. I tend to work non-stop when the shop is open, so I sincerely appreciate your understanding during those times when I shut down to spend time with family, especially now that the boys are out of the house and, frequently, far from home. If Angus is in Arizona, I’d like to visit him. If Drake is momentarily on St. John, USVI, I’d like to get down for a week of camping in their jungle. You may notice a trend here, a new work rhythm that I’m experimenting with so I don’t burn out. Rather than pretending to take weekends off, which rarely happens, I bundle my down time and skip town so I can’t work. Despite appearances, this means the shop is only sealed up about 86 days per year vs. 124+ days per year if I actually didn’t work on weekends and took four weeks of vacation, plus Federal holidays, to match my wife’s vacation time. I offer the math because a few folks have noted that “it seems like GW is always on vacation.” Generally speaking, the shop will be open for five weeks, then closed for a week with a ramp-down Friday and ramp-up Monday on both ends of the closed week although that sort of neatly planned closure doesn’t always pan out. We’re closed on most major U.S. holidays: New Years, Ground Hog’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, & Christmas. Everyone involved here – Matt, Nikki, Drake, & I – appreciates your business and your patience with custom orders. Golden Witch & Peak Bamboo couldn’t do what we do without you.

And the opportunity one of you has been waiting for …

Selling Golden Witch. As I keep telling folks, I am utterly devoted to Golden Witch so long as I’m the owner. (And if you order custom parts while I’m the owner, I’ll make those parts personally before I leave. Don’t fret – I have at least a month of education planned for any new owners and in that month I’ll make the parts that you ordered before I sold the business.) To get back on track, I am also in the best position to know that this little company of mine (which includes Golden Witch, Arcane Component Works, and Peak Bamboo) has outgrown its founder. As one indicator that I’m willing to share publicly, our 2020 taxes have been completed and our Gross Profit is up 21.7% over 2019. While that sounds lovely, it’s unsustainable for me and I’ve already closed one branch of a major account in early 2021 because I can’t make enough guides to keep up with demand. If you’ve got the knack for managing employees, you could really run with this company.

None of my kids – not my adult boys, not my soon-to-graduate girls – wants to take over Golden Witch. It’s hard to say where they’ll all land, but it looks like we’ll have two musicians, a molecular biologist, and a visual artist. My wife has retirement in her sights. The two of us are soon to have an empty nest. It’s time for me to move on to other adventures. Over the past several years I’ve entertained many inquiries about purchasing the company. It’s always been for sale, for the right price. Now I’m stating it publicly: Golden Witch, along with Arcane & Peak, is for sale as a single entity. No idle inquiries, because I don’t have time to sate curiosity, sorry. To discuss the purchase, I’ll present any seriously interested person with the opportunity to make a large cork purchase equivalent to 1% of my asking price. With cash in hand, we’ll talk. The money either becomes a deposit on the company, or I will order in, then ship, cork – the money itself is payment for a non-refundable purchase, one way or the other. Ideally the company group will be sold to a young couple, both business-minded artisans. They’ll need significant private financial backing; no, I will not finance the purchase. I will provide one month of training as part of the sale; additional training time can be purchased, but not more than three added months. If you can’t figure this out in four months at my elbow, running a video camera if needs be to record guide-making steps, then you’re too slow on the uptake to manage this little monstrosity. Arrive sharp, talented, and with a learner’s mindset. Absorb what I can teach you, then do it all your own way. I would consider continuing to make guides on an exclusive contract for the new owners. Yes, I really enjoy making guides. I will gladly sign a non-compete agreement (generally speaking, I want to go boating & fishing for pleasure, not step back into the fishing industry). The new owners, if two replace me, should expect to work at least 8 hours every day, and not more if they want a life outside the company. There are many opportunities for expansion that I have politely declined, but the new owners will need more staff to manage those expansions (particularly, a full-time jeweler to make guides, hook tenders, etc.). They’ll need one full-timer or two part-timers to manage stuff that they don’t care to manage (in my case, I have a bookkeeper/number wizard and a webmaster/graphic designer, each of whom aids GW on a part-time but sine qua non basis). They’ll also need one part time to full time shop assistant to cut bamboo, pick/pack orders, clean up, etc.; until now this has been the role my kids filled, first for sporting gear they needed, then for gas money. The buyers will need shop space to work (~2,000+ sf for benches/supplies), warehouse space (~5,000+ sf for bamboo and aluminum rod tube storage, shipping supplies, metal and wood cutting benches, packing space….less if tall racks are used), inventory space (~2,000+ sf for GW small item inventory, e.g., silks, ferrules, guides) – perhaps retail space, though I don’t recommend this as the added staff expenses were never worth the rewards; stay lean – GW’s clients are spread out all over the world which makes an internet storefront a better expense than a brick & mortar storefront. They’ll need a significant first year budget to manage packing/shipping/unpacking the inventory; building mortgage/rental; staff expenses; and a hundred other et ceteras. Whomever the new owners are, they’ll need a very old-school approach to hard work. In return for their investment and their labor, they should be able to fund a worthwhile working lifetime for themselves and their family and, perhaps, in a couple decades they’ll sell the business group to their children and set sail into their own retirement. This is one heck of an opportunity for a crafty someone who’d like to step into an established business being sold by an enthusiast who will tell them everything possible about how to manage the existing business as well as where to first probe for expansion opportunities. If it’s you, knock. I’ll open the door. Please don’t expect a negotiation. The price is fixed because I know what I need to move on and for my price I’ll pour out everything I know (win-win … it’s the best way forward); only my added time or contract work is negotiable. I’ll also discuss a few ideas I have for ‘continuing education’…I’d love to teach what I know so long as it is complementary to the goals of the new owners and there are ways to make that happen, particularly if the new owners want to expand GW’s product line to include more tools and more raw materials, to be not merely one source for rodmaking components, but a primary source for the stuff that independent craftsmen and craftswomen need to make not merely their own rods, but their own guides, hook tenders, and all the rest. GW evolved into what it is today because I listened to potential clients at my first few ‘rod’ shows…and most didn’t want my finished rods, they wanted to know how I made them. We produced a bunch of DVDs and those educational materials led to our shift away from completed tackle and into component supply. As a new generation of young retirees decides they’re ready to shift from service work into handicraft work, there is a growing – and well funded – market for education and for the supplies to feed the knowledge. There’s a lot to talk about. Are you ready?

While I do need to accommodate some family plans as we have the opportunity to travel, I expect to become more strict about a regular work rhythm of five weeks of work with ten day breaks in the gaps between working spans. Please keep tabs on this text block as there may be other closures to accommodate random trips as well as two writing projects I’ve gotten involved with. All of you, and your families, too: Please Stay Safe & Stay Healthy!


-Russ

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