Business

Outdoor sports stores merge

Dave and Tammy Gibson at their four-season skiing and running store, Kootenay Nordic Sports. - Andrew Bennett photo
Dave and Tammy Gibson at their four-season skiing and running store, Kootenay Nordic Sports.
— image credit: Andrew Bennett photo

After a busy winter in the burgeoning BMO building on the hot corner of Columbia and Washington, Dave and Tammy Gibson aren't showing any signs of letting up as the couple enter their 20th summer in Rossland, and their business Kootenay Nordic Sports enters its first full running season.

Right off the bat, Kootenay Nordic and Mountain Life have merged, combining their assets and creating the potential for a ground level rental area and ski workshop. Pat Hinds, the previous owner of Mountain Life, has taken a financial management position in Fort Nelson, although the family will also maintain their home here.

Dave and Tammy couldn't be more pleased with their location on the ground floor of the BMO building.

"It was still the Bank of Montreal when we came here," Dave recalled. "And then it sat vacant for so long," Tammy added. "It's wonderful, what Fletcher [Quince, the new owner of the BMO] is doing."

They went to high school in Surrey, "graduated and got out," Tammy said. They bought a house in Warfield, got married in Surrey in December, 1991, and have been here ever since.

"We didn't have family here. We came because it was a ski town, and the affordability of buying a house. It was cheap then, $30,000," she recalled. Tammy worked at the Sunshine Café with Andy Talbot and Dave worked as a carpenter, both for himself and others.

They renovated and sold their first home, moved to lower Rossland and did it again, and finally moved to their home in Pinewood, beside the golf course. In the meantime Tammy worked at the Lounge, the Uplander, the Garage, and now for Dr. McVicar.

"I'd be kicking and screaming to leave this great town," Tammy said, "especially growing up in the city. I tell the kids all the time, you guys don't know how good you've got it."

"All the kids in Rossland," Dave added. "What's available to them is amazing."

Their daughter Sierra was born in 1994, son Mackenzie in 1996, and Charlotte in 2000, the year after Sierra started skiing in "Rabbits" at Black Jack. Now Sierra's on the B.C. nordic team.

"All of us are very involved with Black Jack," Tammy said. They originally moved here for the downhill skiing, but then strapped on nordics and now have coached for 12 years.

"Any fundraising we do through the store goes to the skier development program," said Tammy.

Kootenay Nordic came about when High Country Sports reached a crossroads and Clea Hargrave's considered selling the business to the Gibsons.

"We approached her and said we'd be willing to give it a try," Tammy said. They'd never done retail, but Dave had been self-employed for some time. "We're used to living that life."

The match with their nordic life was perfect, and also "the easy part," Dave said.

"Can you imagine Rossland without a nordic shop?" Tammy asked.

Dave said, "I think we have the highest per capita in Canada of [cross country ski club members] for a community."

"We had a really good winter," Tammy said. "The location, and our knowledge of the ski world. People in town supported us really well."

It's also hard work. They both put in about 10 hours a day, seven days a week, all winter. For the family it's been an "adjustment," Dave said. The kids work in the store and enjoy it, "most of the time."

Tammy said, "We still eat dinner together every night, just sometimes we eat dinner at eight or nine o'clock! We still have every morning together, getting organized and out the door, the kids stop in here, [the store,] for lunchtime, and our little one walks here after school. It's the meeting place."

Both Tammy and Dave maintain some employment on the side, and plan to for the first three years. "We want to be here for the long run," she said. "In spring, right now, we're closed two times a week. We'll see what summer is, we haven't been through summer yet. We'll go back to seven days a week when the snow flies."

Part of their efforts are directed to customers all over B.C. and as far away as Ontario. Tammy explained that the terrain around Rossland can support a unique stock of skis — like light touring models with metal edges and fishscales — that "other places like Prince George wouldn't stock because they don't have that kind of terrain."

They also sell everything from race to recreational skis and plan to expand their touring section next winter, adding Dynafit bindings and Barryvox beacons.

Now focused on the "flip side" of the warm season running world, it was the ideal time to combine Kootenay Nordic's and Mountain Life's formidable stock of summer apparel and shows. Plus, they think there are more runners in the area than ever before.

"Before there was a small elite of runners, but now lots of people are doing it, and lots of people are interested in getting out and getting exercise," Tammy said.

Kootenay Nordic will maintain Pat Hinds' tradition of a Saturday morning community run, now meeting at the store and heading out en masse from there, led by professional triathlete Dallas Cain and Xterra triathlete Kelly Grisham. "We may pick up on some of the other runs Pat had planned," Dave said, "and we'll be doing the Golden City Grind again," Tammy added.

The kids' running group will also be going as soon as soccer finishes. Last year it ran from July to October, and "it went really good, and they really improved over that time," Dave said.

In the meantime, business goes on and they have plans for the new space next door — maybe rentals and service, and activities like wax clinics — and they're working on building their online presence.

Their advice for retail start-ups? "Start with lots of money," Dave laughed. "You need to have deep pockets, or know people with deep pockets, just to get up and going."

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "I love it. You meet very exciting people, and meet some really odd people, which makes it fun. It's a really cool job."

 

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