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Where's Kona? Brand sets up then breaks down at Sea Otter

Published April 17, 2024

MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Kona Bikes employees were tight-lipped Wednesday after the brand's employees set up a display at the Sea Otter Classic expo (which opens Thursday) and then began breaking it down.

"I can tell you straight away we are not going to have a comment," Caleb Smith, a marketing specialist at Kona, told BRAIN, before we could even get a question out. Asked if he was returning home, Smith said he planned to stay and enjoy the California weather for a few days.

Other sources confirmed that the CEO of Kent Outdoors, the company that bought Kona from its founders in 2022, called the Kona employees in Monterey this week and told them to break down the display and not have a presence at the expo. A source said employees have been told to expect a company "town hall" meeting on Thursday. Employees said they had no details on when or how the meeting would be held and had no idea what information would be conveyed.

Kona Bikes is being led by Lee Belitsky, a Kent Sports board member who was an executive at Dick's Sporting Goods for more than 24 years. BRAIN was unable to reach Belitsky on Wednesday.

A year and a half after announcing the acquisition by Kent, Kona announced a new consumer-direct sales program that many U.S. dealers found objectionable. Last October Kent said it was relocating its corporate headquarters from Ohio to Utah. It said some Kona employees would work out of the Utah office, although the bike brand maintained a presence in its longtime hometown of Bellingham, Washington.

In recent months Kona has advertised deep discounts in its consumer-direct program, including a buy-one-get-one free promotion.

Kent Outdoors is no relation to Kent International, the New Jersey-based mass market bike maker. Besides Kona, Kent Outdoors owns outdoor brands including Arbor Snowboards, O'Brien, Freedom Foil, Aquaglide and BOTE. 


Kona sent out an email recently inviting fans to visit them at the Sea Otter.
Topics associated with this article: Sea Otter Classic

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