JANUARY 09, 2006 -- RANCHO SANTA FE, CA (BRAIN)—Former Schwinn marketing executive Ray Owen Burch died Dec. 23 at his home. He was 93.
His professional career began with Whizzer Motor Company in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1950 Schwinn Bicycle Company in Chicago, Illinois, asked him to head its marketing department. His strategy was to sell a high-quality product in bicycle specialty shops, which he initiated through 1,800 Schwinn dealers, and to provide strong customer service.
Burch traveled the country visiting Schwinn dealers in the 1950s with a young attorney, Bob Keck, and Frank V. Schwinn, then a vice president of the company. The three of them developed the Schwinn Dealer Franchise Program that focused the sale of brand name Schwinn bicycles through bicycle dealers, instead of hardware stores and automobile dealers. He later crafted and championed the Schwinn Sales and Management School and the Schwinn Total Store program that took bike shops out of back-alleys and established them on main business and shopping streets.
Burch held positions as senior vice president of marketing and director of the company until his retirement in 1980. His friendship with many dealers continued long after he retired. He kept a steady correspondence with his computer and his typewriter, demonstrating a keen wit and clever responses to his many friends, until the last few months.
“Ray Burch was an extraordinary individual. He was a champion of independent bicycle dealers and worked all of his business life at continually improving the business, the opportunities and the profits for bicycle dealers. The specialty bicycle retail channel of trade owes him a huge debt of gratitude,” said Jay Townley, who worked for Burch and later was his colleague on the Schwinn executive committee from 1966 until he retired.
He leaves behind his wife, Marykay; his son Edward C. Burch and wife, Beverly; and his brother John Burch. He also is survived by his stepchildren, their children and two great-grandchildren.