Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange has only been open for three months, but it’s already making a positive change in the community. The outdoor store is giving the Discovery Bay area, just outside Port Townsend, Washington, the jumpstart it needs, according to owner Tyler Meeks
“We’re in a forgotten area that has started to become run down,” Meeks says of the little bay off Highway 101. His small store (less than 1,000 square feet) with only two employees is making a big impact despite its size.
The store is filling a geographic hole. The nearest outdoor shop is an hour’s drive. “We have a lot of active people in the area, so creating a resource to serve them made a lot of sense,” says Meeks.
Whether locals or visitors, customers appreciate Meeks’ good quality gear at affordable prices. Prices are moderate because merchandise is a mix of new, consigned, and donated outdoor gear. Backpacks, technical footwear, fall layers, winter jackets, paddling and surf equipment, and climbing gear are just some of the store’s fluid, current inventory.
“I wanted to create a space where people can pass stuff on.” He ran the numbers, and it seemed viable, so he opened shop. It has so far exceeded his expectations.
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Meeks believes the recycled movement is here to say, pointing out that used gear and apparel shops are part of a growing, multi-billion dollar second-hand industry. He says people are starting to realize that the fashion and textile industries are extremely wasteful.
“I feel that as a society, we are becoming more aware of sustainable economic practices, and understanding where their money goes within a community,” he says. “Offering full retail pricing has been overdone, and companies fail all the time due to their overextended costs and competition. We're offering a community based resource to afford the outdoor experience without the extreme costs normally associated with recreational fun.”
Meeks says there’s nothing like this store on the Olympic Peninsula. He estimates that 60 percent of the gear he stocks is on consignment. The small portion of inventory that is new is based on what people are asking for or what simply makes sense to have new – camping fuel, certain clothing items, and rainwear.
Meeks estimates that his sell-through rate is at 75 percent, much better than he anticipated. Since some items are harder to resell, he plans on dialing in inventory going forward. “The beauty of this concept is the fluid inventory. We'll keep certain things stocked, but we will always listen to what the community is asking for, and do our best to accommodate theirs requests,” says Meeks.
Disco Bay has something called the "wish list," where people request specific items, and Meeks will actively pursue it and reach out to them once it comes into the store. Customers simply let Meeks know what they’re after while in the store or by giving him a call. It’s a simple method of providing a touch point for customers, and it lets Meeks offer a personalized service that wins loyalty.
The consignment process is hassle-free. People drop off gently-used or even new items that they never ended up using.
Gear is inspected and a reasonable price point is set. If an item requires refurbishing work, such as repair, reconditioning, or waterproofing, that’s factored in the price. Items are typically held for 90 days, and then Meeks contacts customers to ask them if they want to donate or pick up their item.
Paying it forward
In addition to consigning, Meeks gets plenty of straight-up donations, and he donates 10 percent of these items to local nonprofits that are committed to outdoor preservation. “It’s extremely important to keep the Washington wilderness pristine.” The Washington Trail Association, Jefferson Land Trust, and Backcountry Horseman are a few of the groups he’s worked with so far.
Save the environment and save money: It seems like a sure-fire recipe for success.
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