Podcast: A very special gear shop

GearHeads Outdoor Store won our 2019 #CoolShop Award by a landslide. Find out what makes this unique store a Moab landmark.
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GearHeads is a must-hit destination in Moab, Utah. Don't forget your water bottle.

Aside form world-class mountain biking trails and spectacular scenery, Moab, Utah, has another gem: GearHeads Outdoor Store. Founded 22 years ago by Doug and Greg Kennedy, and now run by younger brother Steve, this quirky shop has become a Moab institution thanks to its vast selection of gear and apparel and one very unique feature: unlimited free cold, filtered water available for anyone and everyone. In the desert, that's a pretty big deal. And GearHeads has cultivated a devoted customer base to prove it.

GearHeads received a beautiful banner designed by artist Latasha Dunston.

That's partly why GearHeads emerged as the clear victor in our 2019 #CoolShop Award. To learn more about this special shop, Kristin Carpenter sat down with Steve Kennedy for a conversation that spans his initial struggles to get product to stock the shelves to the unique challenges of serving a gateway community, from Marie Kondo-ing his new location . Have a listen.

Rather read than listen? Here's the complete transcript of the podcast.

Kristin: Welcome back everybody to another episode of the Channel Mastery Podcast. I'm very, very excited to introduce Steve Kennedy to you who is the founder and proprietor of Moab GearHeads, the recipient of the SNEWS CoolShop Award at the January Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver. Welcome to the show. It's great to have you here Steve.

Steve: Thanks. It's so nice to talk to you Kristin.

Kristin: Well, and I feel like we're neighbors because obviously I founded and bounded Verde and Durango, Colorado and I still live here. I have been to your shop GearHeads so many times in the past 25 years. Steve and I am very, very excited that you won the CoolShop award. But one of the great parts about the show that we're about to share today with our amazing audience is that we get to talk about how your CoolShop is going to be evolving in 2020.

Steve: Well that sounds great. We were so glad to be part of this and nice to hear how long you've been a customer of ours that we have a pretty loyal following and it's nice to have your name on that list.

Kristin: Absolutely. So just to make sure we all kind of start on the same page here, let's give the audience your founders story. Can you tell us about how GearHeads came to be in the Moab community?

Steve: Certainly. I'll first say that I joined after a few years. My brothers, Doug and Greg actually started GearHeads back in on Friday the 13th in March of 1998.

Kristin: Oh, that's amazing.

Steve: Yeah it is. And that turned out to be a good luck omen. And of course the store has grown a lot since then, but initially the brothers who are looking for some sort of business denser to take place in Moab here, GearHeads was almost a place where you go have dinner and drinks. They originally were going to start a restaurant and on the way to the bank to sign the papers for the financing and final lease to open this little pub. My brother Doug pulled over and said, "I just can't do it. I just can't go back to the restaurant bar business, come home smelling like chicken every night."

Steve: So, brother Greg was just amazed. He goes, "Now? You're telling me this now?" And so they decided to regroup and they started thinking about what they could do and the idea of Moab needing a gear shop that could cater to hikers and bikers and climbers and jeepers and everyone. So they began the gear head store putting that together and the name came about when brother Doug went on a field trip hike with his daughters group of friends and there was few moms going. He decided to go along with them and as he leaned over his backpack on there, set it on a rock and started digging through the gear to find something he needed. The woman was just amazed at the amount of gear he had and just looked at him and said, "What are you? Some kind of gearhead?" And that's where the name came from.

Kristin: That's perfect. And it actually ended up being almost like this evergreen name that we all like to raise our hands and be part of that tribe, right?

Steve: Yes, exactly. And so that started GearHead store, which originally was 1,000 square feet and consisted primarily of a lot of surplus and gear they could buy wherever they want. You don't get opened up like some of the big names in the business by just saying, "I have a store." It takes quite a bit to convince them that they should allow you to carry the product line.

Of course, we've matured since then to the point where vendors come to us now and want us to carry their lines. But back in the day, they had to fight really hard to get people like Mountain Hardware, Patagonia, Black Diamond, and all these companies to consider doing business. They have to know you're really going to be a serious retailer that you're going to represent their product well and provide the service they expect to give to the end user.

So as time went on, the store grew to 2,000 square feet and that's when I came on board and we grew more and more each year and finally grew to 5,000 square feet, which is what most people know GearHeads as about 5,000 square feet now.

Kristin: Wow, that's amazing. And so the founding of GearHeads is actually over 20 years old, correct?

Steve: Yes, we are in our 22nd year.

Kristin: That's amazing. And you're obviously still-

Steve: Three. I'm sorry, in three days it'll be 22 years.

Kristin: That's right. We're recording this right before Friday the 13th that's awesome. So it's still a family run independent business, correct?

Steve: Absolutely.

Kristin: So I have a lot of questions that I'd love to ask you. In our rehearsal call, we talked about how Moab, Utah has really become almost this iconic outdoor recreation example of how an economy can be, I think augmented or you supplanted by outdoor recreation. Obviously the town itself has a history of extraction industry. I know there's a lot of history, a lot of public lands and lands owned by different entities around Moab, but still recreation has stepped out as an absolute force and shaper of that economy. And I think it's one that a lot of other rural communities look to, and it's also just a very important hub community to larger brands as they tell their global story because there's obviously just these iconic backdrops that we've all seen beautiful videos and images of.

So I would love to have you give us a first person's account of how the community is evolving and changing, let's say in the past three years because I know that it has just really boomed and I would love to get your take on how the community has changed and what you attribute that to primarily, and then talk about how you're serving your customer base.

Steve: Well that's an interesting and complicated story I suppose is the best way to put it. Towns either grow, or dry up and blow away and this one certainly took the choice of growing and it happened at an incredible rate, especially when you mentioned three years ago, I would say three to five, six years ago the growth really started coming on strong and now it's just incredible how fast it's grown and it's taken a lot to try to keep up with the demand of so many visitors.

The Travel Bureau has done great job in getting the word out to really worldwide about what Moab has to offer. Not just Moab, that actually, the five national parks, the big five as they call them, major advertising campaigns throughout the world really. And it has definitely drawn a lot of visitors to these small rural Utah towns.

And the growth has been difficult. You could ask 50 people in Moab what they think about it. Most probably say they love it and some will say they don't. Things like water and sewer and schools and restaurants and it took a lot of work to really get to the point where these large crowds can be handled and actually we do a pretty good job of it, but they're still building here. In fact, as we speak, the original GearHeads store that that most of your audience and yourself or are familiar with is just about ready to get demolished.

Kristin: Isn't that interesting? There's a dichotomy.

Steve: In fact Friday the 13th they may have the first bulldozer, they've actually started today digging up some water lines and things and try to get all that squared away, but the owner of the property who rented from his family for years and years and years, the son has taken it over and he's going to build a very small, very nice boutique hotel with a GearHead store on the main level adjacent to the lobby.

So in a year, we'll be back and I forgot to mention that during this year of construction, we have moved about a mile South of our location to a temporary spot that we're conducting business and everything. It's GearHeads just in a different building right now.

We still have pre-filtered water. We still have our huge array of products and everything that you expect when you think about GearHeads we're just sending a different building and the building's working out nicely and it's at 1040 South Main where before we were at 471 South Main, so we're about a mile South.

So we'll be there for a year while they build this new project, the hotel and the GearHeads and then at the end of that year when they're ready to have us back, then we'll be moving everything back in there and we'll be about the same size as we were before the move.

Kristin: And that's exactly where I thought our audience might find a lot of value in what you're about to share because ultimately you come from a CoolShop award in a shop that's literally going to be changing in back in the same location everyone. But who out there has the opportunity to have a successful independent retail entity like this with an established following, who has the opportunity to move back intentionally into the same location? And I know that it's, obviously you're still in a rental situation but you expressed to me in our rehearsal call that you do have some leverage in terms of building out the space. So it's almost like you're in this dream scenario where you have a successful business and you're going to go back into a brand new space that has more intention behind it, same square footage, etc.

So I thought it would be super interesting and fun for you to share what you think the store needs to reflect in terms of how it should be different to serve an evolving target shopper. And obviously your target shopper I think is heavily comprised of, excuse me, tourists, but you also have a pretty local loyal and regional following. You have, I think, product that just is not easy to find in other places. You've had that and people rely on driving into pickup what they need even if they are not tourists for example. So let's spend a little bit of time talking about, I realize you don't have carte blanche, we're going to build it exactly what we need, but I'd love to hear just a few insights in terms of what you're hoping to evolve in terms of the physical space itself when you move back in there.

Steve: Well yeah, that's been kind of fun to be part of the design piece. I mean we had to kind of bargain back and forth per square footage and certain things we just felt were necessary such as our, we're known for our free filtered water that is a brother, Doug's lost leader if you will. When they first started GearHeads back in the day, they sold water and I think that lasted about two weeks and Doug said, "Sell the water. Why sell water? Let's just give our customers free water. They come to the desert, they need good water to drink and we'll provide it." So from almost the beginning, the free water was something we're known for gosh, really all over.

Especially when you talked about the regional folks and people that come in from all parts of Utah and Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, I mean these people all come with their water containers empty, they don't worry about it. And they get here and they're getting ready to go on the river or go for a hike or whatever and they're filling up their water. So our water station placement is going to be right inside one of the main doors. And it's being designed so that it's a lot easier for folks to grab the water without having to walk all the way through the store and try to dodge people. So the water station will be more convenient once we get to the new building.

Kristin: That's awesome.

Steve: Then other things that we designed is, how a part that doesn't affect customers quite as much, but how we want the receiving area to look like, to be able to expedite freight in and get things that marked and out on the floor. But in terms of the interior, the placement of the registers where they're kind of in the, it's going to be in the middle of the store. So we've got good sight lines, be able to assist people and be able to have a good traffic flow if you're waiting to check out. We're designing a big long display area for all of our climbing equipment, which is another item we're really known for is how much climbing gear we pack into our store.

Kristin: Absolutely.

Steve: That is one of the kind of the treasures. Even folks that aren't climbers will come in and just gaze at that wall and go, "Wow, what are those things?"

Kristin: Yep.

Steve: Because it's pretty all that nice shiny gear hang in there, it attracts, certainly the climbers, but just about everybody wants to look at it, hold it and ask about it. So we're going to definitely devote plenty of wall space in the new building to that end as well as the pack area and tents and they're all going to be, so hopefully the flow will be the best yet in GearHeads evolution. And it'll be fun to go in there, you can put it down on paper until you start unloading things and putting them displays up and loading them up with product, things move around a little bit.

We've got a pretty good idea how it's all going to look, and we've gotten even to the fine detail if we need high-speed table here and we need speaker wire there and so that's been kind of fun because when we get there hopefully, all these things will come together smoothly and we can make the transition to the new building maybe a little less painful than the move to the temporary headquarters. Because that was rushed. And not a lot of pre-planning. We just suddenly one day go, "We've got to go."

Kristin: It's just so interesting now because it's like a forced introspection and obviously there's so much evolution on the national level with retailers and you do have just a high influx of tourists there. I think the only other town that I would think is comparable is Jackson Hole in the summer. They literally have done such a good job marketing it that it's almost overcrowded, but Moab has more space and more amenities and I do feel like they actually handle the flow better. But your demographic is continuing to evolve and now that you've had two moves, it's like maybe one move you did a little Marie Kondo-ing, who knows? Did you end up deciding to maybe consolidate or get rid of anything as you're going into this temporary location for a year, knowing that you're going to be coming back into a new footprint?

Steve: Well, certainly, it's like moving your residence, you start packing things up and figuring out, "Do I really want to move this to the new space or not?" You may get rid of some things and then you also make mental notes of things you're going to have to add to that space. There's some of our fixtures and things that probably because of how worn they are over the years may not make it to the new building. We may have to say, "Well that piece is a little rough. We're going to have to replace it." So there'll be a lot of work on figuring that out. But we've gotten rid of a bunch of displays. We've cleaned out, we've found products that we thought we'd lost or mis-received and "Oh there those are." We've found boxes and boxes of these really good tent stakes. And we were reordering all the time we probably had eight boxes full of them and we just discovered them during the move, so yeah.

Kristin: Anything else that you discovered? Because that's actually really entertaining.

Steve: Oh, let's see what else. Well, you discover that over the years, sometimes when you have items you're not sure how to dispose of or get credit for a returns you've done or broken items, is there something that came in defective and you suddenly realize, "Well there's a lot of stuff here to try to figure out what to do with." We're trying to figure out, "Is this something that legitimately we can send back to a vendor for credit? Do we need to throw it away and move on? Can any of this be reused, recycled." So you go through a lot of that and I mean we weren't totally out of control, but when you're in a running a store for 22 years, some of those little quarters or bottom shelves in the, especially in the back room, things get thrown and forgotten about and you move on day to day business and then when you make a move like this you're like, "Oh look at that. That's right."

Kristin: Exactly.

Steve: So that's been fun to kind of get things cleaned up and make sense of it. In fact, just today I was in the new location going through a bunch of miscellaneous boxes of stuff that we had people throw in the box and move and now I'm going through them box by box trying to figure out, "This is good, this is garbage, this can be reused." And so that's kept us busy.

Kristin: I bet. So let's also talk about the fact that you have this evolving clientele. So you have for 22 years I think, done an exceptional job serving the person who just valiantly lives out of their car and loves recreation. So we love to call them in a very respectful way, dirt bags, and we all feel we belong to that tribe, I think. But at the same time, the people living out of their cars are a little different today with the advent of built out sprinters, can you talk a little bit about kind of just how you see the tourism clientele evolving in Moab?

Steve: Well all these people are very near and dear to our hearts because they've helped build the GearHeads and Moab and the community along the way. And it is my first experience ever where you introduce somebody and say, "Do you live here?" Go, "Well, I'm willing to," when they're applying for a job.

Kristin: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Steve: A lot of them do live out of their vehicles and which, I'm not sure I could do that, but many of them do it really well. The sprinter van thing and you see more and more of that. That's really becoming a lifestyle that a lot of people are enjoying and they have the room to live in their vehicle better than if they're trying to live out of their Subaru. And we're seeing more and more of that. In fact, we've noticed over the last about three years that our tent business is slowing down and some RV supply stuff, that business is increasing.

Kristin: That's super interesting.

Steve: Yeah, I mean the tent sale thing for the first little bit kind of mystified us. We'd go to the outdoor retailer show and a vendor, we talked a lot about reps and he's like, "We haven't put any tents on this order yet." Well we haven't because we still have some from last season. They just haven't sold. They're like, "Really wonder why not?" Oh, it just kind of occurred to me looking at the traffic coming in and out of our parking lot, there's lot of people that are in hard sided vehicles and they've got their climbing gear, their bicycles, all this stuff organized in these big vans and they've got a bed and they've got a lot of them have little kitchenettes inside there.

So we've seen a lot of business kind of switch from the high end tents and the high end sleeping bags more to big luxurious sleeping pads that you would never think you're carrying on your back and RV, toilet paper and other supplies, wag bags and things that people need. And it's shifted a bunch. Now you still have the backpackers and there's plenty of them but they do come in and they're looking for the high end lightweight tents to carry and water filters. So there's still a lot of those guys. You're seeing more and more of the car camping evolve into a RV camping.

Kristin: Interesting. That's super interesting. Does that mean you're kind of evolving your brand partners on that front? Are you starting to work with more RV oriented? I would say not. I mean it's not RVs per se. I have a feeling Vehicle Supported Adventure is probably smarter in terms of how we would describe this demographic if they're coming into your shop, but maybe not. Maybe you're seeing people who have actual class three RVs, coming into your shop and looking for supplies.

Steve: We're seeing all of it really, to be honest. Everything from, there's still that that guy or gal, they'll be living out of what we consider pretty small vehicle. A lot of school buses, a lot of C class RVs pulled behind trailers, and a lot of the Sprinter vans. So there's a lot more of those guys coming in and out of here than there used to be by a long shot.

Kristin: I also have to ask with just your 22 years of business under your belt and Moab, how about overlanding? Because I know people who have been in areas like yours kind of scratch their heads and say, "Overlanding? That's what we've always done. Now it has a name. What is that exactly?" And obviously there's consumer shows around that. A lot of social media communities of people doing custom builds, et cetera. So have you been having that demographic come in as well?

Steve: Are you talking about the folks that are actually living on the road for years? Is that what you mean by overlanding?

Kristin: I almost feel like in the lens of Moab. So you have this incredible jeeping and HOV community already, right? And then you have the RVs and I think overland is like basically Toyota's that have pop up campers on the back or Toyota trucks that is, or high clearance vans, so four wheel drive sprinter vans could fall into place.

So Flagstaff, Arizona, which is another neighboring town to both you and I host the Overland Expo West every year and I believe this year it's in May. And they have a whole basically four day consumer show with education and lots and lots of vendors including big vendors like Sportsmobile, et cetera. Those are kind of the overlanding people. A lot of them do international overlanding trips, et cetera. So it seems like that is almost like a captain obvious yes, we have those we have for decades, but it actually is a whole new consumer sector now out there in outdoor.

Steve: Yeah, you're absolutely correct about that. There's a lot of them on the road now. We see them literally every day and we even see some folks that bring their rather large ones over from Europe, float them over on a boat and then tour the country. So there's a lot of that going on. And the beauty of one of those is your base camping and you can, you can go have a bunch of different adventures. You've got a place to store all the gear that you need and you find a good place to camp as a base camp. And then from there you're hiking, biking, climbing. So it's a new phenomenon that has really gained a lot of traction and we see a lot of those folks in and out of our parking lot every day.

Kristin: I'm sure you do. And it's all so interesting, I thought as we're kind of looking to wrap up here, I wanted to make to be sure that I asked you a couple more questions. And one of those is the fact that you are going to be in a higher end hotel in the same location. I have a feeling you absolutely won't see attrition from your loyalists, myself included, but you also are going to gain to be exposed to, I think, possibly a higher end demographic staying in the hotel. And I bet there's going to be some very cool visual merchandising opportunities there. But are you planning on anything on creating merchandising or a feeling of inclusivity, if you will, with a much higher end clientele that you're not used to catering to?

Steve: Well, we certainly understand we're going to have perhaps another class or group of customers, they're going to be staying in the hotel that are perhaps more sightseers, day hikers, that kind of thing, which we get a lot of those folks as it is. But certainly with a hotel, I think it's slated to have 32 or 35 suites, so it's not gigantic. It'll be still kind of a smaller kind of, still have a cozy feeling to it. But we're certainly aware that the merchandising at the at door that enters through the lobby of the hotel is going to be something designed to attract people to come in and take a look at us. It could be some sort of souvenirs, tee shirts and things, just to kind of get them to come in and browse and people that come in and for those types of activities or the customers that are needing things like footwear to hike in and sunscreen and hats and buffs and, so there's a lot to offer those people.

Steve: So we're certainly going to dress it up on that entrance if you will, to kind of lure those folks in and show them who we are.

Kristin: That's awesome. And I also look forward to seeing how you'll continue to do your grassroots marketing and word of mouth to your existing people as well. because that'll be fun. I think there might be some fun marketing and messaging opportunities there.

Steve: Oh absolutely. I mean we love our customer base and it's wide, it's varied, it comes from all over, literally all over the planet. And we really feel strongly about providing excellent customer service. We're really picky when we choose team members because we understand that they're the ones that are really greeting our customers and talking to them and helping them find solutions for their activities here and making them feel at home and answering questions about where to go, what to do, where to hike, where to climb. And we've got experts in almost every facet of what Moab has to offer and we have a loyal group of customers such as yourself and many more like you that visit us almost every year. And they walk in, they know the drill, they bring their friends in and it's just a lot of fun.

And then it's always easy, especially in our older building to spot any new customers because they kind of walk in the front door and look up and go, "Wow!" And kind of stare up an amazement. One day, this young couple did just that. And I recognize they must be their first time visitor. So I walked over and greeted them and I said, "Hey, do you mind telling me how you found us?" They said, "Well, we were camping in Yellowstone and we got to know the group next to us. There was another couple, we got to know them and we would have campfires at night and one day they said, where are you guys going next? And we told the Moab and they said, you've got to go see GearHeads Outdoor Store." They didn't tell him, don't miss Arches or make sure to go to Delicate Arch, they said, "You got to go see GearHeads."

Kristin: That's awesome.

Steve: So that kind of gave me a little... I really enjoyed hearing that and so I did a little advertising under that light where if you're coming to visit Moab, there's three must-see attractions, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Gearheads Outdoors Store. Not necessarily in that order.

Kristin: I love it.

Steve: That was kind of fun there. We used that on the radio. We used it as a print ad and it was just a lot of fun.

Kristin: That's awesome. I also, before we wrap up here, I want to make sure that everybody listening knows about the access fund donation that you made as part of your CoolShop award as well as, I'd love for you to update us on what's going to happen with your popular Fuel Canister Recycling Program as well as your single use plastic band membership that you have going with Aim Media and SNEWS.

Steve: Well, okay, great. First off, we're very thankful to our customers that that voted for us for the CoolShop award. We're very excited to win that. And when we did, of course everybody, the employees are, "Store party, store party. How fun." And we got to thinking about it and thought it was a lot of people involved in sharing GearHeads story and voting and visiting us that we just thought, "Wouldn't it be better to put this money towards good use?" And the Access Fund is a group we've donated in many different ways over the years and we're always just thrilled to help them. They have great respect for the environment here. They help educate people and they work on trails and restrooms and a lot of stuff to help protect this fragile desert environment.

So we were just thrilled to do that. And we were also fortunate that they were able to just get with those guys and cut the check and send it to him. So we were a little pleased. And just to thank our team, we'll just let you know, we didn't leave him out. When we moved to the new location, there was plenty of room for a back deck, we bought them a barbecue. So now they can, on busy weekends and they can go buy some hamburger or we'd throw them a little burger cook-off once in a while. So they still got a little reward out of the deal.

Kristin: That's awesome.

Steve: We were happy to do that. And then in the terms of the recycling programs, if you're an outdoor enthusiast, you love recycling. I mean, with almost rare exception, an outdoor hiker, camper climber really cares about the environment. So one of the problems we noticed was the volume of camp fuel canisters that were coming, people asking, "Do you recycle these?" And we were unfortunately having to say no and they're going to the landfill here. And not only is it bad to dispose of all that extra stuff in the landfill, they're also kind of dangerous when they have residual fuel left in them and it could blow up and hurt somebody working at the landfill or in a dumpster somewhere. So we started thinking about how we could do it and I got with our recycling folks here in town and they said, "Well, if they were punctured and there was no pressure, we might be able to see if we could sell it as metal to our guy that buys the metal from us." And I said, "Well, okay."

So we contacted a local here in Moab, has done a lot of work for us and he designed this really cool puncture device. And so we would then puncture the cans, GearHeads on our deck and then I'd run them up and sure enough they were able to sell them. So we had a special bin at the recycling center that GearHeads would come in and unload these a couple of times a week during season we get a lot of them and it's just grown to such popularity. We kind of ran out of a good space to do it. So I met with recycle people and offered to give them the puncturing device and haul the canisters up to them. All they have to do is puncture and pull the plastic off of them, throw them in the bin and sell. So that has just worked out just terrifically, we're just thrilled that we've solved that piece of it.

Kristin: That's awesome.

Steve: So now we're taking all those green propane canisters and then the Isobutane you get with your Jetboil and MSR stoves and things. We're doing those as well and Butane canisters. So that's just solved the major problem here and everybody's happier for that. And now we're going to be part of the, you actually probably know more the details, of the plastic coming in from the vendors products.

Kristin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, that's awesome.

Steve: You could probably speak to that better than me because we're just getting invited into that. We're going to, I know they're going to send us a box and we can fill it up with the plastic and send it in for recycling?

Kristin: That's exactly right. Yep. And that is something that SNEWS and AIM Media have pioneered and it has really taken off like wildfire. So it's a fantastic way I think to help you, I think with your employees be a model for your local communities. And I think that also is like the tail that wags the dog of the brands and we've already seen it do just that. So hats off to SNEWS and the AIM Media team for launching that, I think turnkey program that's still evolving so and right on the-

Steve: And we're excited to be part of it.

Kristin: Yep. And right on the website @snewsnet.com there is a thumbnail image at the top right of the site called the Plastic Impact Alliance and you can click on that and join it so I can put all the links in the show notes as well. So I'm glad-

Steve: That'd be great because yeah. It just kills us to throw that plastic away. We really don't have much choice. There was nothing we could do with it. So to have this opportunity to recycle it is just, we're so thrilled with that and we look forward to spreading the word to other retailers when we see some of our competitors and see people at trade shows and pass the word on the program and get more people on it. Moab has recently banned plastic one use shopping bags.

Kristin: Okay.

Steve: And we're excited to see that happen because you, gosh, you just see them blowing everywhere and we actually quit using them before the ban came in. There was some talk about the band coming and we thought, "Let's just lead the way here and do it now and show people that it's not that much pain involved. It might be a little bit more expense by the paper bags, but then so much better than sending that plastic off, which ends up in our oceans and our rivers."

Kristin: Yep. And also blowing around your five national parks. I mean, there's also an impact right at home when you live in an area like you do so. Well, I just want to say applause to you Steve and to your team at GearHeads and please know you literally had a landslide win on this and we're very very proud to have you on the podcast and I'd love to do another show with you in about a year to talk about the unveiling of your brand new location. Again, it'll be in the same location, but it'll be a brand new building. I can't wait to check it out. I know it also has some green building features that you're really proud to be part of too.

Steve: Yes, and we're excited. We'd love to do another discussion with you when that comes to town or new location, so we look forward to seeing you again.

Kristin: Yep. I actually have a spring break is coming right up here for us here in Southwest Colorado. So you will be seeing us in here pretty soon in a couple of weeks. I'm glad I know where your new location is.

Steve: Yeah, the one mile South, you'll see us. It's signed very well and it's kind of kitty corner from the Maverick. Everybody knows where the Mavericks are, so.

Kristin: Yep. Awesome. Okay, well congratulations again and I so appreciate you sharing your story and being on the Channel Mastery Podcast for SNEWS.

Steve: Thank you so much, Kristin. We appreciate being part of it and had fun doing so.


Kristin Carpenter in podcast room

Celebrating 100 episodes of Channel Mastery

When Kristin Carpenter started the Channel Mastery podcast in October 2017, there was no blueprint for navigating outdoor specialty retail. One hundred episodes later, there still isn't. But through her interviews, Carpenter has answered many of specialty's biggest questions, ...read more

We're launching a new podcast series

For your listening pleasure, we’re stoked to announce a new partnership with Kristin Carpenter and Channel Mastery podcast. SNEWS readers voted Channel Mastery their favorite outdoor podcast in 2019. We’re kicking things off with conversation with Kiri Masters, the founder of ...read more

Front of Gearheads Outdoor Store in Moab, Utah

A surefire way to attract customers: Offer free, filtered water

For every square foot of Gearheads Outdoor Store, there's dozens more SKUs of gear. Snowshoes, backpacks, and sleeping pads hang from the ceiling. Camp mugs, footwear, and do-dads decorate the walls. What might be classified as a neat-freak's nightmare is what Gearheads is best ...read more

3 Rivers Outdoor Co

A new gear shop is born in Pittsburgh, PA

When the doors of 3 Rivers Outdoor Co. (3ROC) open for the first time in spring of 2018, the owners, Christine Iksic and Chris Kaminski, both 37, will already know a whole lot about their customer base. In the last year, the Pittsburgh duo has hosted two pop-up gear stores they ...read more

#saveyourlocalgearshop in green letter on black background

Editor's note: Save Your Local Gear Shop

Dear friends and colleagues, As we enter an uncertain period for our families, businesses, and country, I first want to express concern for your safety and health. There’s nothing more important at the moment, and while we go forward with our mission to inform, educate, and ...read more

Footwear wall and clothing racks in Alpenglow Sports

Special series: The biggest threat to outdoor specialty retail, Part 1

Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is fired up. Anonymous 3P sellers on marketplaces – especially Amazon – are the single-biggest threat to the health of the specialty outdoor industry ecosystem in 2019, he told his members at the Grassroots Connect Show in ...read more

Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont, is a #CoolShop

This Vermont #CoolShop thinks outside the box

Outdoor Gear Exchange (OGE) in Burlington, Vermont, is on fire. It was recently accepted into Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, the elite group of specialty outdoor retailers. It’s only a few likes away from scoring 13,000 followers on Facebook. And it just wrapped up its very own ...read more

Text reading episode 125 special episode, crisis communication for your business during the covid-19 outbreak. Blonde woman in white sweater and jeans leaning against a door

Podcast: Crisis communication, part 2

Last week we shared an important 20-minute podcast about coronavirus crisis communication. (Listen here.) Little did we know at that time that things would change so incredibly fast. “Even if you haven’t gone out to {communicate with} anyone yet, it’s time to start. If you ...read more

interior of retail shop with outdoor gear, kayak hanging from ceiling, lots of customers shopping

Mountain Gear closing after 37 years

Mountain Gear, one of our industry’s premier mountain shops, will be closing its doors in the coming months. The decision to close weighs heavily on founder and owner, Paul Fish, who said that the realization that it was time was both came somewhat sudden but also a long time ...read more