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Kool Stop founder Richard Everett, 76, dies

Published July 30, 2020
The rim brake innovator possessed a "relentless focus on creating the highest quality products."

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. (BRAIN) — Richard Everett, founder of Kool Stop International who led a quiet revolution in the manufacturing of rim brakes, has died. Gene Smith, Everett's partner for more than 40 years, said the 76-year-old entrepreneur's "... heart simply gave out." 

Everett had been ill for some time. Services are pending.

Tim Watson, Kool Stop's president, said Everett had a passion for rubber compounding, machining and tool building. "His relentless focus on creating the highest quality products has been the foundation of the company's long-term growth and success," he said. 

Everett launched the company from his garage; today it's housed in a 24,000 square-foot facility in Lake Oswego.

"While still working from his garage, Kool Stop began to make a name for itself in the cycling brake-pad industry," said Watson, 54, who joined the company in 1984 and was named president in February. "Dick had designed the world's first pad with an internal frame and an air-cooled heat sink; it quickly gained recognition for its innovative design."

Today, the company continues to make its brakes in the U.S. and, as Watson pointed out, it continues to ship its products to Taiwan and China for bicycles shipped back to the U.S. After its founding, the company soon developed a niche and was distributed widely in Europe with an office located in the Netherlands. The company also makes disc brake pads in Taiwan and distributes the Bobike Child Seat, kids push bikes and other accessories.

Everett, who Smith described as a Type A achiever, had been taking college courses in architecture in the early 1960s but left school early to join the U.S. Navy. During his four-year enlistment from 1966-’70, Everett served three tours in Vietnam. He was assigned to a Marine Corps supply depot in Da Nang in damage control and supply management. As a chief petty officer, Everett would take supplies upriver for Marine infantrymen.

After leaving the service, Everett worked with his father-in-law at Williams Air Brake in Portland, Oregon, a company that manufactured air and Jake brakes for the trucking industry, Watson said. At one point, Everett was involved in making rubber compounds for the dental industry. That led to a deeper understanding of rubber compounds and friction, Watson said. Later, Everett began supplying rubber brake pads to Mathauser, an industry supplier. Mathauser would then bond the pads to a holder. Still, if the parts weren't exceptionally clean the pads would slide off. "Dick decided to try and develop a better system," Smith said. "He was good at actually solving problems and that changed the way brakes were made.”

Everett had a patent on the design and held it for 14 years before it expired. Once expired, other companies quickly began using Everett's fundamental designs.

But Everett, who preferred a low profile and disliked travel and sales, turned to Howie Cohen, now deceased, to find a "front man" for the company. Cohen introduced Everett to Smith. Later, Smith bought out a shareholder and became a partner in the business.

"Howie recommended me to Dick, so I flew up there to look at his brake pads. They were quite unique," Smith said. "I took the job and started calling on distributors. Dick's first product, the Kool Stop International, was selling at quantity for $2.75 each; distributors told me that I had lost my mind.”

At the time, pad replacements were selling at 10 to 20 cents each at wholesale. "That's when we came up with the Kool Stop Continental, but Schwinn took offense at the name,” said Smith, 83, who retired from Kool Stop in 2012. “We explained what we were doing, and they accepted it. With the Continentals, we brought our price down to $1.15 — that was still pretty expensive. It's been a successful company flying under the radar.”

Everett is survived by his wife, Shirley, three children and two grandchildren.

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