In the late 80’s the wheel business was starting to falter. I’m not sure exactly why because George handled the business side of things. George's health was faltering as well. In 1988 he had a triple bypass operation.
Mary had quit her job when the kids came along. The wheel business got so slow that I had to start doing something else to make ends meet. I thought that I would become a custom frame builder. I started tooling up. I had only built one frame so I figured that it would be smart to build a few more before I took any orders. Before I could do that my buddy Doug Hutwagner called me up and told me that Ross Bicycles in Farmingdale was advertising for a frame builder.
Ross had formerly been located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They had mimicked Schwinn’s Paramount project and started the Ross Signature Line. First they hired Jim Redkay and later Tom Kellogg to build top quality hand made racing frames. In 1988 Ross declared bankruptcy and was bought by Rand International in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. Rand was an importer of low-end bikes for the mass merchant market.
Once Rand owned Ross they decided to resurrect the Signature Line and they advertized for a frame builder. I answered that ad. Rand was one of our wheel customers so George put in a good word for me. On the strength of having built one frame I was hired as the Director of the Ross Signature Division. I had an arrangement where I was to work Monday through Thursday at Ross, then Friday and Saturday doing wheels for George.
On the Sunday evening before I was supposed to start work at Ross I got a call that George Oslander had a heart attack and had passed away. George was Jewish so his funeral was the next morning. Instead of reporting for my first day of work I went to George’s funeral.
I started working at Ross. After I was there about a week I was contacted by George’s family. They wanted to keep Hempstead Cycles and the wheel business going and they wanted to hire me to help run it. We negotiated for a few weeks but I didn’t see eye to eye with George’s son-in-law who was handling the business. I was sad about George’s passing and I felt adrift. I had been working for George in some capacity for over 17 years.
I had been a wheel builder for 14 of those years. I kept a log book of the wheels that we made. The final tally was over 400,000. I trued every one
At Ross I was slowly setting up a frame building shop. I made a few trips to the old Allentown factory to bring equipment back to Farmingdale. That was interesting. Besides the Signature project, they had me doing lots of work that involved correcting manufacturing defects in the low end bikes that they sold. That wasn't too bad, but I didn’t like working there very much, so I left after about 3 months.