The Peter Bubble

One of the more interesting aspects of the new job Ashley and I have found ourselves in is that we have ended up spending a fair amount of time in Peterborough.  For those of you not in the know, Peterborough, New Hampshire is where the Eastern Mountain Sports ‘base camp/headquarters’ is located.   Spending as much time as we have working in the stores, we have found the look behind the curtain to be an interesting endeavor.  However, even more fascinating than the inner workings of the EMS machine is the strange culture that is housed within its walls, as well as the entire town of Peterborough.  EMS has even coined a funny name for the Peterborough culture, calling it the “Peterbubble,” referring to the fishbowl quality of the culture found around base camp.
As a store manager for EMS, it is easy to fire up an emotion-fueled email if things are going wrong.  If my server acts up or I have any type of computer problem, IT gets an angry email or impassioned phone call.  Having trouble with payroll?  Accounting gets an email.  Out of a key product?  Our merchant group gets an email.  I am pretty sure if I knew I would be spending as much time at base camp as I have been, I might have kept a few of those emails and thoughts to myself.  It is easy to fire off an angry email to a faceless name on a page; it is another thing when you run into that person in the hall twice a day.  I have spent more than one day at Peterborough hoping that I am not recognized as “that guy.”
The craziest thing about being in Peterborough is that it is impossible to escape EMS.  Whether you are in the grocery store, at the gas station, or driving down the road, you are bound to see or run into someone from our corporate office.  The amount of EMS bike jerseys that you see on any given drive is ludicrous, and speaks to the amount of cyclists housed in the Peterbubble.   It is also a good reminder to respect cyclists on the road, because the person you are tailgating, honking at, or running off the road could be the company’s president.  This is especially true if you are driving a logoed company truck. 
EMSers are so prominent around town that I have to remember that the ‘powers that be’ can be anywhere.  So when the car in front of you is failing to acknowledge the green traffic light, it is wise to lay off the horn and keep all of your fingers on the steering wheel.  If it is not an EMS employee dazed in front of you…it could easily be a spouse or child.  It is a wise career move to bury one’s city instincts to lay on the horn and scream out the window, in favor of showing some patience and restraint.  (As an aside, one of the hardest parts of the job of demo driver is restraining my Massachusetts driving tendencies.)      
An example of this idea that “nowhere is safe from EMS” happened the other day while Ashley and I were at base camp to catch up on some cleaning, debrief about past demos, and help with logistics for upcoming demos.  After being on the road the last month, we have become particularly sensitive to being inside for extended periods of time and having to sit still for more than ten minutes.  Seeking an escape, we left base camp for lunch and headed out to downtown Peterborough. 
Having visited some of my favorite places to eat on recent visits (Peterborough Diner and Harlow’s), Ashley and I decided to try something different and eat at Nonie’s.  We sat at the counter and as we ordered our lunch a familiar voice resonated from behind me.  Will Manzer, the CEO of EMS was sitting in the booth directly behind us with the Eastern Mountain Sports Marketing Director.  The following day, when Ashley and I stopped at the Peterborough Market on our way home, we ran into a group of Black Diamond’s Marketing Executives.   
No matter how often I am faced with the realities of the Peterbubble, it never ceases to feel strange to me that a small town in Southwestern New Hampshire houses such a large number of important people in the outdoor industry.  Also, important figures in the outdoor industry frequently make the pilgrimage to Peterborough, New Hampshire.  In fact, I had a good idea we would be running into the Black Diamond guys at the Peterborough Market because I was told “they always stop there when they’re in town.”  Black Diamond has a favorite place to eat in Peterborough? Weird!
The EMS fish bowl is an interesting place and Peterborough is a fun and wonderful small town.  I would encourage anyone who is close by to swing into town and check out our store (located at the corporate office) and when you are done there, swing into Harlow’s for a pint or Nonie’s for a sandwich.  Just remember, you might meet more EMSers there than at the store.