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Husband and wife run separate area businesses

Pine River recently gained a business savvy couple who owns two separate businesses. Steph Noordmans brought Red Fox Pottery out of hiatus while Randy Noordmans manufactures tandem tricycles.

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Business savvy couple, Steph Noordmans (left) brought Red Fox Pottery out of hiatus while Randy Noordmans manufactures tandem tricycles. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Pine River recently gained a business savvy couple who owns two separate businesses. Steph Noordmans brought Red Fox Pottery out of hiatus while Randy Noordmans manufactures tandem tricycles.

Together, the couple is erecting a building near the center of Pine River where they can both produce their unique products for sale.

Husband gets business on a roll

Locals may have seen large, tricycle-like contraptions in Pine River and Pequot Lakes parades in the last two years, but few may realize how homegrown the business that produces these man-powered vehicles is.

The Team Cycles at local parades are side-by-side trikes produced under the Wheels N Things LLC Company, all the brainchild of Randy Noordmans, of Pine River. Though the multi-person transportation devices are most recently entering the public eye, they have been in development for several years, only really being for sale for the last two years.

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"It was kind of something slowly growing as something I did as a hobby for a while," Noordmans said. "God kind of has been opening the doors for me. I'm walking through them little by little as they come."

Two years ago, Noordmans rode through his first parades in Pequot Lakes and Pine River, where he received feedback and an order. This year he went a little further, advertising in front of his property and leaving two of his Team Cycles on display next to Life House Coffee Shop in Pine River where they could advertise for themselves.

Noordmans developed the first Team Cycle following a request from his wife.

"It started with my wife asking if I could build a bike for us that she wouldn't have to keep up with me on," Noordmans said.

One could say that Noordmans developed the Team Cycle as an alternative to traditional front-and-back tandem bicycles.

"Tandem bikes can be tricky to get used to," Noordmans said. "These are easier. It's more of a recumbent seating position so you can better relax. Each person has their own set of gears so they pedal at their pace. You pick your pace. The shifter lever is right on the side of the seat. You pick your pace and enjoy it sitting side by side with someone having a conversation."

On a tandem bike the front person can hear the back person, but not vice versa. On a Team Cycle, that is not an issue at all. In addition, the Team Cycle has recumbent seats, which can be more leisurely and comfortable than traditional bicycle seats.

While Noordmans mostly advertises his two-person Team Cycle, he also produces a one-person reverse tricycle, which has two wheels in the front and one in the back. Both the Team Cycle and one-person tricycles may be making traction among those with special needs, or those who work with individuals with special needs. His first team cycle sold to a group home, with the second selling to a family with special needs.

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"So far all of my two-seater bikes have been for families with special needs kids," Noordmans said. "I didn't expect that but that's what has happened. The most recent one I sold to a family in Ohio."

The recumbent seating style of a Team Cycle means better balance, which cannot only improve comfort, but may also be easier on those with balance issues. In addition, Noordmans is able to set up his Team Cycle with most of the controls on one side if a caretaker needs to maintain control of the vehicle.

Though other side-by-side vehicles exist, Noordmans came up with his design on his own. Aside from some scavenged parts, he also manufactures them from scratch.

"(The parts are) all mine except I do recycle some used bike parts like front forks, bottom brackets, head tubes and rims," Noordmans said. "The main frame came out of a little bit of tests and failure to see what happens. I came up with these trikes. I started with a four-wheeled version and moved to the trike because it is more stable on rough ground."

Noordmans has been offering rentals of his Team Cycles. He started with a resort in Motley, though the lack of a major bike trail meant the cycles didn't get much use. Since offering rentals in Pine River, some vacationers have taken them for a spin. Noordmans wants to rent them out of resorts again in the summer of 2019.

The trikes are family friendly too, as they can be linked together into a sort of train, with each additional trike adding two seats. Noordmans' goal is to eventually link six Team Cycles together. So far, he has stopped at three.

Noordmans has been working on bikes, cars and anything with wheels since he was young. Ultimately, Team Cycles grew out of that old passion. Though he has found a design that works, Noordmans will continue to adjust the design to make it more comfortable and convenient.

For more information, visit www.wheelsandthings.llc.bike .

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Wife fires old business back up

Steph Noordmans is no stranger to running her own business. Her pottery was once a familiar fixture at Lakes Latte in Pequot Lakes, where it was for sale in the local vendor area under the name Red Fox Pottery LLC.

"It was pretty much all mugs because that's pretty much what people love to have for their morning coffee at home," Noordmans said. "I generally tell people I won't do a dinner set. It's way too much time and involvement."

For approximately two years she produced items part time, but she had to go on hiatus for a while when life happened. Specifically, she had a little Noordmans in the kiln, then she had a baby to raise, followed by another.

"Having babies and being pregnant isn't conducive to working with clay up to your elbows," Noordmans said. "It kind of got put on hold."

She recently turned up more work and brought it back to Lakes Latte. This year, she did two loads of pottery. It's just a taste of what is to come.

After she and her husband finish their pole barn, they are going to build a house with a studio in the basement. It could take more than a year to complete, but then she plans to get her business back into action. The couple plans to have a storefront shop in the pole barn to display both the Team Cycles her husband makes, and the pottery she makes.

Noordmans has a long history of playing in the mud. She started turning pottery at Arrowhead High School in southeastern Wisconsin where she took every ceramics class the school had to offer. At Bethel University in St. Paul, she virtually minored in ceramics and became a teacher's assistant.

"(I) learned most of how to run a studio through that," Noordmans said. "The rest has been trial and error experience."

It was a trial by fire, sometimes learning what it is like to lose 70-80 hours of work when a kiln over-fires. She learned where her talents lie and what materials she prefers.

A teacher encouraged her to carve into her pieces with flowers, swirls, writing and pictures. She found a real knack for carving into her pottery and discovered which glazes and other materials work best for her style of pottery.

"It requires a fine-grain white clay body because it gives crisper colors," Noordmans said. "Then with some fine grit content I'm not running into big chunks of sand when I carve. It's a lot smoother to work with."

She decided to start her own studio about six years ago when she discovered all the equipment she needed could be purchased online for less than $1,000. Even spinning pottery only part time, she said the products paid for the equipment in a year.

In addition to Lakes Latte, Noordmans' work can be found online at Redfox Pottery LLC on Facebook.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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