Columbia Sportswear's 'Tough Mother' Outsmarts Attacker
BY Courtney Rubin
Gert Boyle, the company's 86-year-old chairwoman, was held briefly at gunpoint, but kept her wits about her.
Columbia Sportswear chairwoman Gert Boyle recently thwarted a robbery attempt.
Gert Boyle, the 86-year-old chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear, gave new meaning to her moniker "One Tough Mother" last week.
According to the Portland Oregonian, Boyle returned to her West Linn, Oregon, home last week to find a man bearing a gift basket. He followed her into her garage, offering her the package. She refused it – as she did his request to autograph her book, One Tough Mother: Taking Charge in Life, Business and Apple Pies.
He pulled a semiautomatic handgun and demanded money and jewelry. She didn't lose her cool. She pretended to go along with him, telling him she had to disable her home's alarm system. Instead she pushed a silent panic button, which alerted the police.
"She had her wits about her," Sgt. Neil Hennelly, West Linn's police spokesman, told the Oregonian. "And she certainly lived up to her book title."
Boyle – who appeared to be quite the "tough mother" in a series of Columbia Sportswear commercials co-starring her son Tim – had her hands bound when the police arrived. She suffered a few bruises but was otherwise unharmed.
"I can tell you when our police chief walked in the house, he was wearing a North Face jacket," Hennelly said. "He asked her how she was doing, and she said, 'Fine until you walked in with that jacket on.'" (Another famous Columbia commercial showed Boyle showing off a bicep tattooed with "Born to Nag.")
Boyle spent the night with her son Tim, the company's president and CEO, and her daughter Sally Bany, who owns Moonstruck Chocolates.
She took an uncharacteristic day off work, though.
"Gert did call in sick," said Ron Parham, Columbia Sportswear's spokesman. "She did make the effort to call in and let us know she wouldn't be making it in – as if we expected her to."
When her husband died in 1970, she later told the Oregonian: "After making funeral plans all weekend, I showed up for work at Columbia Sportswear on Monday morning, and I've been showing up ever since." She said she knew nothing about business at the time, but she turned the company from a boutique only for the seriously outdoorsy into a billion dollar international behemoth that peddles fleece to the masses.
So far three men have been arrested in the robbery case.
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.