Follow That Thread
The Fixed Line Climbs Stitch-By-Stitch.
“The Fixed Line strengths remain its capability, excellent customer service and quality repair work.”
Ryan ‘Hutch’ Cabibi
By P.M. Fadden
In a great land already synonymous with staunch outdoor conditions, one local seamster claims Turnagain Arm to be an ample climate for entrepreneurial growth.
Ryan Hutchinson-Cabibi, owner and gear guru at Girdwood-based outfitter The Fixed Line has noted increasing 2018 consumer demand for his apparel-based small business.
Fixed Line’s operation model emphasizes outdoor community interaction via repair services for technical gear, including seam taping of waterproof as well as breathable materials, heavy duty sewing and zipper replacement or repair.
“My most common question is, what got you into sewing,” said Cabibi, who’s known locally as Hutch. “Answer: I’m entirely self-taught and always learning.”
Hutch credits his mother and a childhood passed watching her build Halloween costumes as his early exposure to stitchery. But it was later, while studying Outdoor Education at University of New Hampshire, that his eyes were opened to the often staggering prices of commercial gear, equipment that he already knew to be essential to not only his continuing study but personal recreation as well.
“I couldn’t afford much of what would keep me outdoors,” Hutch said. “But I was able to afford fabric and patterns…and I knew Mom still had her sewing machine.”
The idea spurred Hutch to seek a new method, and he quickly found one that worked.
First purchasing patterns and materials, Hutch would pop-in to visit mom. From there it was a patient post at the family’s kitchen table, with a sewing machine for company.
“I struggled,” Hutch recalls of those beginning lessons.
But the frustration, he says, paid dividends in the form of good results–surprisingly early. His first projects, which included a Bivy sack and a personalized take on an ice climbing case, laid ground work for later business growth.
Fast forward two decades and Hutch, with an established career path encompassing Wilderness Therapy and National Outdoor Leadership School, was still stitching time for sewing on the side.
“My work included a lot of time repairing student gear as well as maintaining my own while in the field,” Hutch said.
As the field career progressed, so too did the repair work, a tandem which fuelled an organic shift into the realm of custom made kit.
“I still balked at the prices from gear manufacturers,” Hutch said. “So I built my own.”
But ultimately repair work made more business sense. And today, nearly two years after its founding, the modern Fixed Line continues to thread its own course in local apparel repair.
“I’ve created great business relationships for customer drop-offs at Hoarding Marmot in Anchorage and Powder Hound at Girdwood,” Hutch said. “This allows customers to pick-up or drop-off at their convenience, and allows me to focus on the work.”
Fixed Line has invested in specialized Pfaff, Singer, Brother, Janome and Consew machines, a progressive, technical evolution which has expedited order turn-around to a single week and attracted customers from Nome, Barrow, throughout Southcentral Alaska and even from the Lower 48.
And, Hutch says, the opportunity for growth is still large.
“According to the Outdoor Industry Association and Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation sustains more than four times the number of jobs in Alaska than oil/gas production and mining/logging combined. That is a huge market for those people and organizations working in the industry, and doesn’t account for individuals or families creating their own,” he said.
Next, Hutch says, is to see Fixed Line increase its market share. To do so means engagement of not only appropriate space to work, but reliable employees to fill it. These are challenges Hutch encapsulates as growing pains common in business.
“Those are things we think can be managed in the short term to be resolved in the longer term,” Hutch said.
“I want The Fixed Line to support people in Girdwood, and all of Alaska. Overall, its greatest strengths remain its capability, excellent customer service and quality repair work.”