Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Fat Bastard Barbell Company

I had the pleasure to chat with Shawn who has taken over operations at Fat Bastard Barbell Company (FBBC, based out of Michigan).

FBBC was founded by Jerry (spelling?) who ran the business for a number of years and built a strong brand reputation.  Andrew purchased the company about 10 years ago.  Andrew is passionate about grip and introduced some innovations in addition to trying to run a small business.  Andrew has stepped away from the business to spend more time with family.  Shawn is Andrew's father. 

Shawn is a self described crotchety old man who enjoys his title of "Grand Fat Bastard."  I originally inquired via the website about an old school 1" v-bar and was treated to a wonderful conversation and a decision to go with custom FF vertical bars.

Running a machine shop is no small task, with staffing challenges, material challenges, competition from overseas companies and competition from larger companies.  We live in a world that expects better, faster, cheaper and does not concede to be forced to pick two.  Sometimes cheaper is the most important factor and deals can be lost to save $5.

Grip strength is as fundamental to human survival as being able to throw a rock and kill an animal.  In the United States it has been formally contested for a couple of decades.  Grip implements are carefully described by manufacturer.  A Saxon Bar from Sorinex does not equal a Saxon Bar from Arm Assassin Strength Shop.

I originally learned about FBBC when purchasing two implements for the 2023 King Kong International Grip Challenge.  The website was a bit dated, the ordering process seemed haphazard and there was little communication on my order until the crusher and jug arrived well packaged and at a level of quality that was above and beyond my expectations.

A year later, I found myself in the market for some other implements and the response to my inquiry was "give me a call during the week."  

Shawn has fabricated all of the implements for the past 9 years.  He currently has one employee that helps with bending stock and packaging orders.  FBBC work is balanced with parts fabrication for the automotive industry which is somewhat cyclic.

We also talked about FBBC's dumbbells.  For $115, you get a solid steel dumbbell handle that will survive the apocalypse.  If you are in the market for a schedule 40 or schedule 80 pipe cut down to length, there are other places to turn to.  These are solid steel and weigh over 20 pounds with 5" handles and 7.5" loadable ends for an overall length of 20".

Shipping is via flat rate box when possible so as long as it fits in a medium or large flat rate box, you are all set.

Shawn is also very open and excited to make custom products include grippers, custom barbell, etc.  He can use different materials from aluminum, steel, brass and even titanium (although titanium cannot be knurled).

We also briefly talked about his competitors in the space and how they can compete on cost, but not necessarily on quality.  The old adage of you get what you pay for rings true.  He chose his words very carefully and had nothing disparaging to say, but he did point out some of the things he did in his shop that I should pay attention to.

Shawn's wife is working to update the website.  I suggested taking advantage of the logo and maybe marketing shirts, banners, and the like.

Overall, it looks like it will continue to be a great lifestyle business with a lot of potential.  My wish list now includes.

2x2" DB Handle ($115 each)
2x2.5" DB Handle ($135 each)

Interestingly, we talked loading pins and the Omni Loading Pin is not high on his list of favorite items to make.  He is pursuing some innovations of his own, but I will not let the cat out of the bag.

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