Wow. Just holy shit wow. Things are so weird right now. Ski season died, the world is in lockdown, and you don't know if you should verbally assault people who break your 6 foot bubble, or forgive them because everyone is under the same stress right now. There just isn't any frame of reference anymore. Welcome to the new normal!
It's been way too long, but I wanted to throw a post up that sort of gives a heads up of what we have going on and where we're headed in the near future. I also wanted to give you all sort of an update on the health of the business. Read on!
Given what's going on, we've actually tried to keep things as normal as possible around the shop, even expanding where we can. As this began, our first instinct was to circle the wagons, pool all of our resources, and hunker down to see what was going to happen. As everything started to play out over the subsequent 6-8 weeks, we've loosened up a little, made some moves, and actually increased our year 'round staff numbers.
Mid-ski season, we decided that we were going to retain Mike Sager as a year round employee, making our summer staff Angie, Charlie, Mike, and me. Adding Mike has allowed us to get started on summer projects like tuning and testing our rental fleet, organizing our season lease fleet, cleaning up our digital rental inventory, etc. Mike has jumped in with both feet and has been huge for the shop. Anyone that knows him, knows that isn't a surprise; Mike has the work ethic of a Clydesdale and is a joy and an asset to have in the shop.
Charlie is heading into his second summer with us, and after obtaining the Manager position last fall, is absolutely killing it. Over the ski season, he stepped into the Manager role rather flawlessly and picked up responsibilities and projects that allowed Angie and I to focus on more big picture projects. Charlie is our literal right hand and we simply couldn't do what we're doing without him.
Unfortunately, when the mountain closed, we had to lay off the remainder of our staff. That hurt. A lot. We say it to the point of nausea, but we continually have the best staff in the industry. We are ridiculously lucky to work with these folks and with very little exception we end up with a family type situation. That sounds cheesy, but it's awesome and the friendliness, genuine wish to help, and love of our sports that all of our staff have adds to the vibe of the shop and we're extremely lucky to have it. That made letting everyone go very difficult. Angie and I feel a very real sense of responsibility to our employees to make sure everyone is taken care of, particularly in this type of situation.
Most of our staff had summer gigs waiting for them. Charlie and Mike here at the shop, Richard and his girlfriend have a really cool gig care-taking a property just north of Ludlow, and Seth works for Summit Solutions (property management) where he's been climbing their ladder for the past couple of years. That left Patrick Graham and Jared. Patrick was/is a teacher at Killington Mountain School so we were hoping that he would be able to continue in that role. Jared immediately began job hunting, but to no avail. Ultimately, Patrick Graham and his girlfriend headed to Minnesota to be with his family until this all cleared up.
We scrambled to see if we could help find a full time position for Jared, but nothing was really available. So Angie and I began to discuss the feasibility of bringing him back into the shop in some capacity. We decided to create a full time position for him with his duties being solely responsible for establishing and growing our web store. I've steered away from a web store in the past because of fitment issues, inability to offer both in-store and online customer service at the level that we require, etc. In hiring Jared to handle this, we would have a staff person dedicated to it without distraction, and with my help, would be able to commit the time needed to properly operate it.
Jared, and I, know very little about building out SEO and meta-keywords and top funnel marketing or any of that madness, but we do sort of have an idea of what we don't know, if that makes sense. Jared has always been a phenomenal self educator, and this situation has been no exception. He's jumped headfirst into E-commerce literature, SEO education, remote link opportunities, and cleaning up the design mistakes I've made on our website. Again, we're stupid lucky with our staff. We look forward to seeing where the web store takes us. Our goal is to have it eventually operate as a standalone entity, separate from the shop.
As we move into summer-esque activities, our bike retail and repair side of the business continues to grow. I've been a bike tech as long as I've been a ski tech, which I think is now 18 yrs. Last summer I began teaching Charlie how to tech and build out bikes. As with everything else, he's attacked it with fervor and has become a very capable bike mechanic and sales person, and will only continue to get better with more experience. It's funny, but I was busy being the only bike tech before so we brought Charlie in, now Charlie and I are almost too busy! Absolutely zero complaints on that end.
We're continuing with our kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddle board rentals and sales this summer as well, and it's already beginning to pick up. As soon as we're able, we'll be heading to Old Town, Maine to pick up our kayak and canoe orders, and our Paddle board order should be in house within the next week or two.
On the whole, we've weathered this craziness ok. We've had a ton of support from our loyal family groups having gone ahead and purchased season tunes, put down lease deposits for next season, purchased bikes, etc. I hope you know how much we appreciate that. It literally means the world to us.
Vermont has had a pretty good slow down in COVID cases, and we're optimistic that we're going to get back toward normal as the summer progresses, whatever that normal may look like. We look forward to spending evenings around fire pits, drinking good beer, and finally being able to hang out with everyone again.
Please stay safe and let us know if there is anything we can do for you!
Patrick Ross is President and Owner of Tygart Mountain Sports. He holds BA degrees in Secondary Education Social Studies, History, and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Masters of History from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He's been an avid skier since early childhood and has more than 18 yrs experience in the ski industry.