SmartWool founders Patty and Peter Duke were bought out in January 2003 and have since started the Point6 sock company.

Photo by Matt Stensland

SmartWool founders Patty and Peter Duke were bought out in January 2003 and have since started the Point6 sock company.

SmartWool's Ride: Rebuilding a brand

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The name Point6 was derived from the natural 98.6-degree body temperature of humans. Peter Duke said merino wool naturally maintains that body temperature.

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With one day left, the cycling portion of SmartWool’s ride to Salt Lake City is winding down. After 260 miles of pedaling, only 100 miles and Wolf Creek Pass stand between the 34 riders and their destination — the annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show. Read SmartWool's Ride: Part 2 here.

SmartWool's Ride: Part 2

— Peter and Patty Duke hope the reception SmartWool received in the marketplace is similar with Point6, the new company they started in February 2008, a month after their five-year noncompete agreement with SmartWool expired.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of their first shipment.

At the Outdoor Retailer show, Peter Duke sees many of his old customers and competitors, some of whom are friends, such as John Fernsell, president of Ibex Outdoor Clothing.

Fernsell: “So, I hear you’re doing well.”

Duke: “It’s getting there. It’s a slow process coming back. It’s a battle.”

Fernsell: “I don’t know what the freak you were thinking about coming back. I always thought you had it made, but ... it’s obviously greener somewhere else.”

This time around will be different for the Dukes.

“I will maintain control of the company,” Peter Duke said.

Point6 now has what owners consider a complete line of socks in a variety of colors designed around activities and lifestyles.

The Dukes consider quality their competitive advantage, with their products typically costing the consumer a few more dollars. The socks are made using 100 percent compact-spun yarn.

“Everything that we are doing is a more expensive method ... but what always in my mind prevails is quality,” he said. “The more you can put in for quality, eventually the consumer will gravitate to that, and that’s what our research is saying to us.”

With 10 employees, four of whom used to work at SmartWool, Peter Duke said Point6 sales are surpassing those of SmartWool in its early years, which he attributes to their experience, knowledge and ability to invest more in the company early on with proceeds from the sale of SmartWool.

Point6 has set up a distribution center in Canada and wants to expand into Europe.

The socks are for sale in Steamboat at Allen’s and Zirkel Trading. More retailers are coming on board, Peter Duke said.

The company also has established a relationship with Eddie Bauer, specifically 183 of the First Ascent mountain outerwear stores located inside some Eddie Bauer stories. The socks will have both the First Ascent and Point6 logos.

“That is a wonderful feather in our cap of having a company of that magnitude believing in who we are,” Peter Duke said.

Shipping to the First Ascent stores will begin in September.

“The REIs will come, the L.L. Beans will come as soon as they recognize that it’s time to make the move,” Peter Duke said.

The passion from the Dukes is apparent as they go up against the merino wool giants of Icebreaker and SmartWool, a company the Dukes considered their baby. Today, Peter Duke looks at their baby as a “spoiled brat” or “misguided child.”

“I say that in jest and in fun,” Peter Duke said. “The child has really grown and really done a marvelous job. I don’t want to say their product is not quality. I just truly believe that we have a better product.”

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