New Shops on the Block

Take this, interweb shoppers: brick-and-mortar outdoor shops are thriving in Vermont.

In January, Vermont TrailWear (a sibling to Burlington’s Ski Rack and Patagonia) moved to Waterbury Center on Route 100.

In March, Governor Phil Scott cut the ribbon for Bicycle Express’s clean new space on Route 2 in Waterbury, not far from the growing Perry Hill network of mountain bike trails. Later that month, Outdoor Gear Exchange put the finishing touches on its 4,000-sq.-ft.expansion into the space formerly occupied by Panera.

It is a sign of good times that a shop that got its start selling used sporting gear on consignment now owns one of the prime pieces of real estate on Church Street— and replaced a chain restaurant.

  “This let us move bikes upstairs and display a lot of the new lines we’ve picked up, such as North Face” said OGE’s Ethan Garceau as he helped steer people through the doors of an event OGE hosted in April, a talk by Conrad Anker, at Main Street Landing.  That event sold out. And an event OGE held earlier in the year, a talk on backcountry skiing and Vermont huts, drew more than 150 people to the store.

Outdoor retailers are more than just places to buy things.  Thanks to local shops such as OGE, SkiRack and Umiak, we’ve ridden Tuesday night rides, gone to running shoe fit clinics, tested SUPS and come to know and trust our local shop rats. Who else truly knows how we ski and what kinds of running shoes will fit our gnarly, bunioned feet? These are nuts that online retail has yet to fully crack.

Even more importantly, these shops are hubs in our communities, hosting events such as the Anker talk. As part of its commitment to the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative, OGE is donating camping loaner camping gear that will be available at five state parks this summer. And since 2013, it’s also given away annual grants to organizations to help improve outdoor recreation (see p. TK).

Last fall, when Onion River Sports and its sister store, The Shoe Horn announced they were closing, it sent a shockwave through the central Vermont sports community. The good news, Onion River and The Shoe Horn are now back, managed respectively by former manager Kip Roberts and his wife Jen and Bobbie Roehm (formerly of The Skier Shop in Stowe).

In June, Nate Freund, owner of Sushi Yoshi (with restaurants in Stowe and Killington) teamed up with Ryan Thibault, of  MBTVT to launch Ranch Camp in Stowe.

Stowe’s newest bikeshop/cafe. Photo by Ryan Thibault.

Yes, it’s a bike shop. But it’s also a hangout. Located just off the Cady Hill trails, it’s a place where you can true your wheels and fill your tummy. The shop doubles as a bike-up beer and burrito joint, serving local craft brews and healthy burritos via a take-out window with tables and chairs on the patio outside.  “We’re essentially building a base lodge for cyclists, an all-inclusive, one-stop-shop to visit before and after your rides. This is a place where everyone can feel welcome,” says general manager Evan Chismark.

And that’s reason enough to shop local.

      – Lisa Lynn, Editor