Super Gnarly Means Business - There's No Place Like Home: Young Web Entrepreneurs with National Clientele Looking to Make Impact Locally
In the mission to revitalize downtown Watertown, an enthusiastic seed has been planted on the second floor of the Paddock Arcade.

The workers at Super Gnarly Industries have determination and vision. The 20-somethings are tech-savvy and self-starters - and they feel it's important to set up shop in Watertown.

Super Gnarly, a "media solutions" company, has national clients. But with the recent opening of their office in the Paddock Arcade, the owners want to tap into the local market.

"A lot of people think I'm crazy for doing this," said co-owner and designer Eric S. Binion as he and three other Super Gnarly workers took a break in the office's easy chairs - which, combined with the hardwood floors and hip artwork on the walls, give the room the feel of a breezy coffee shop.

"I've traveled around the country," Mr. Binion said. "But this is my home. We want to give back to the area that brought us up."

Super Gnarly offers a wide array of services to help businesses. It can design everything from T-shirts to Web sites. A shirt design by Mr. Binion will soon be featured in Hot Topic stores nationwide. The company's programming services range from databases, creating Web stores and a unique Web page content management system created by Super Gnarly that is user-friendly.

It is also a Web hosting and a video production company.

Before setting up shop, the owners approached the Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College, which they said offered invaluable advice.

Development Center business adviser Sarah C. O'Connell said it was unusual to be approached by such young people with a business plan.

"But it's a pleasure working with people that young because they have new ideas and energy," she said. "I think entrepreneurship is a really important way to keep young people in the area."


This all started when Mr. Binion, a 2000 graduate of Sackets Harbor Central School and a 2002 graduate of Jefferson Community College, began booking and promoting rock shows under the name "Super Gnarly Events" in Northern New York. "I began doing lots of design work for several local bands and somehow word got out and I began helping national bands with work," he said.

Mr. Binion went on the road with bands as a tour and merchandise manager and did design jobs on the side.

"I had so much work coming in that it was hard to keep up with the design work and the touring work at the same time," he said.

So he looked back to his times as a local promoter and sought out the people who had helped him then.

"It blew up to the point where we are now," said co-owner and business manager Timothy M. Patenaude, a 2004 graduate of Watertown High School. "It was more like a hobby," he said. "Eventually, we said, 'We have to legitimize this.'"

National clients include Truth Custom Drums of Oregon, Metal Blade Records of Los Angeles and Trustkill Records of New Jersey.

But it's the local market Super Gnarly now wants to explore.

"The focus of this office is to get in touch locally," Mr. Patenaude said. "Nationally, people already know what we're doing."

"It's our mission to make sure Watertown flourishes again, especially downtown," said office manager Josh Hagen, a 2001 graduate of Indian River Central School, Philadelphia.

They want to combat stodgy-looking Web sites, which they say are reflections on businesses. Mr. Patenaude said Web sites in a community are often the first impression visitors have of the place.

The business partners say there's a false perception that having a Web site is expensive.


Super Gnarly has created a unique content management system for Web sites, called Juice, that enables customers to easily update their sites.

"It's allows you to update any information automatically," Mr. Patenaude said. "It's like sending an e-mail. You don't have to know anything about Web pages. That's our big selling point. It's easy. As long as you can click and operate a mouse, you can manage a Web site."

Mr. Binion, Mr. Patenaude and Mr. Hagen are full-time Super Gnarly employees. The company recently added part-time employee Derek Sammak, a designer who works out of his home state of New Jersey. He previously worked with national clients such as Atticus Clothing, Ecko Clothing, Virgin Records and recording artists Taking Back Sunday.

There are two other part-time employees: head illustrator and 2004 WHS graduate Nicholas A. Machia, who will be a senior in September studying digital arts and sciences at Clarkson University, Potsdam, and head programmer Brian Dawson of Mexico, Oswego County.

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