Sunday, January 13, 2013

Midwest Retailer of the Year!

Cheers to Transworld Business and Jamie Magyar for this interview!


The crew at Duluth, Minnesota’s Damage Boardshop has been working feverishly since the shop’s founding in 2005 to keep the local skate and snowboard scene in the midwest alive and well; their efforts seem to have paid off, as Damage has been awarded Midwest Regional Retailer of the Year 2012. We sat down with Damage’s Ben Olsen to get his thoughts on what it means to run a solid shop while having fun along the way.

Tell us about your store(s), how long they’ve been around, what brands you carry, and who your customers are.

This hole in the wall joint creeped in the realm of skateboard and snowboard retail stores in May of 2005. Our store is not huge by any means but we cram all the banging skate and snowboard brands whereever there is room. We are fortunate to have a loyal customer base from the surrounding areas. Customers range from the older snow/skate guy to the the dad or mom that shreds and wants the kids to ride as well. Of course, we have that core shred who is boarding no matter what the conditions are and that’s what really counts. Our customers kick ass and we appreciate it!

What’s the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and customers?

The relationships you build with the customers coming in and out of the store is one of the many rewards. It’s rad to know that you can help someone out and that they are stoked on a shop that they can be apart of. As far as the brands, it’s nice working with folks who mostly have the same perception and drive to work in this industry and have a good time doing it. It’s a pile of work but it beats washing dishes or some shit.

What’s your philosophy on the role of specialty retailers in this day and age?

I bet every shop owner that has a store similar to ours is busting their ass everyday to keep the doors open and, not for the money but for the love of the game. It seems like the roll of specialty retailers gets a little tougher every season, but if stores like ours and others were not around, the scenes would not be what they are. You gotta think, though, if it was not for all the specialty retailers, would the whole big box store and online shopping shit be as huge as it is? I think core shops have paved a good road for all those folks.

What makes your shop different?

It’s the same as every other store that puts in tons of work to make a great skate and snow scene for their area. We love doing what we do and have one hell of a good time doing it.

What did you do differently/new in 2012?

Not too much; nothing was broken, so there was nothing to fix. We did bring in a few new brands, dialed in orders better, and of course piled in more local events than ever.

Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?

I thought it was for drinking the most beer! I think they have recognized our dedication over the years and have watched us transition from pretty much nothing to getting where we are at today, which is something to look at. I love to work hard and play harder and still get the job done. Myself and my crew bust our asses on the daily so things get handled and taken care of whether its pre-books, events or whatever happens; we are on it.

What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2012?

Lowlights seem to be the continued rise in online and chain store shopping. It’s like some people just don’t understand what a local shop does for the skate and snowboard community. The highlights would be that we are still trucking along and have the door open. We’re hyped to see our snow team riders making moves in the snowboard world; we had some really fun video premieres that raised some excitement for our area; our local snow resorts have put in some time to make their destination that much better for all the snowboarders in the northland; some DIY skate spots have been popping up and it’s always nice to have fresh skate spots around the town to stoke skaters out. All in all, more high than low!

This year was another tough one for core retailers. What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year’s past?

You really have to pay attention to what your customers want in the store and make sure you are making all the right moves. Of course, that does not always pan out, but you have to take a gamble here and there. Try to be on top of everything and know what the hell is going on in all aspects of your shop. Bottom line: it’s important to be out and about skating and snowboarding and seeing that customer and being able to relate with them. That’s why we all started shops, to skate and snowboard more. Right?!

What are your predictions for 2013?

Well I bet shop life will continue to be a challenge and we’ll have to figure out more ways to stay on top of the game with all the online buying and mall stores doing what they do. I for sure predict we will still be having fun with our friends snowboarding, skateboarding, and drinking beer.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks to everyone who voted Damage in 2012. Props to my employees, friends, and team riders for all the help and support. High fives to all the other kick ass shops out there who bust ass every day to live the dream.

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