Hats off to our long-time friend and rep Emmet Klocker who earned Midwest Rep of the Year!
Cheers Klocker! Party on!
Longtime Volcom rep and Shelter Sales Company owner Emmet Klocker has been voted in as Midwest Rep of the Year 2012. We caught up with Klocker on his personal highlights of 2012, including getting married and an epic trip to Baldface, and his brands’ resilience through the economic rough patch.
What’s the name of your sales agency and what brands do you represent?
My agency is Shelter Sales Co. and the brands I represent are Volcom Boardwear, Electric Visual, Coal Headwear, Capita Snowboards, Union Bindings, and Celtek Gloves.
How long have you been repping and how did you get into it?
I started repping Volcom when I was pretty young, around 1994 or ’95. I met Wooly, Troy Eckert, and Tucker Hall along with some of the early Volcom team guys at Mt. Hood one summer while I was attending High Cascade snowboard camp. I just made friends with the Volcom family when the brand was young and it eventually evolved into a job. Right around that time I also helped start a little board shop in my home town of St. Cloud, Minnesota called The Sticks with some buddies out of high school. We were buying Volcom for the shop and over time they started building their sales team. I guess I sort of caught lightening in a bottle at the start of the snowboard boom and my career evolved from there. At that time, I think I might have been one of the only people east of California who had even heard of Volcom. I was able to rep part time and work in the store the rest of the time.
We started The Youth Shelter Supply in 1998 with help from my family shortly after The Sticks closed its doors. We had a killer trio running the shop in those days. Adam Bovee, Midwest Vans rep and owner of Familia Skateshop in Minnesota, ran the skateboard side of the business, while Mike Thienes, the Current Co-Owner of Youth Shelter & Bald Egal Productions, ran the snowboard side. Between the three of us, we were able to build the kind of shop we always wished we had in our town when we were growing up. I eventually sold the Youth Shelter to Mike Thienes and his new partner Mike Pettit in 2006. As my sales agency grew, I became too busy to split time anymore, so I had to focus my attention.
What’s the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and retailers?
Hell, I basically get to sell toys and cool clothes to people who are in the business of fun. I enjoy working with young, independent business people. That’s my background. My family owned a small restaurant business when I was growing up, so I guess I was raised an entrepreneur. Now I’m able to help other people build their businesses with great products from the brands I sell. I’d say it’s pretty rewarding when I can introduce my customers to something new and then see them profit from it. I enjoy brand building and developing products with the people I work for.
What’s your philosophy on your role?
At the end of the day, we want to be the easiest vendor for our customers to do business with; we listen to our customers and operate with integrity. We try to guide our accounts into the products they actually need for their particular store, rather than just telling them what I think they should want. I don’t like to blow smoke up people’s asses.
Why do you think your retailers nominated you for this?
It’s pretty humbling really. I like to think that I have developed some solid relationships with my retailers over the years. Treat people right and hopefully they remember it. I really appreciate knowing my dealers are stoked on the work we are doing for them.
What do you think makes you excel in this role?
I’ve been on both sides of retail. I was a buyer and owned a store for along time. Now I’m a rep, but I think I still have a pretty good idea of what retailers go through every day. I think that builds some trust with my customers. I’ve also got a great assistant, Andy Conrad, who has been with me a long time. It would be pretty hard to service this region properly alone. I’m also lucky to have a very supportive wife who does an incredible job taking care of our daughter and home while I’m out on the road. The life of a traveling salesman can be a grind, so you’ve got you have a good support system to help keep you grounded.
What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2012?
Well, the lowlight was obviously the last snow season. Pretty crippling for winter sports retailers, which is obviously a huge part of the annual business in this territory. I’ve never seen anything like it in over 20 years of selling snowboard gear. Minnesota winter with no snow is pretty depressing, but we got through it.
On the positive side, our brands are still going strong and we came out of last year fairly unscathed. We’re looking forward to the fresh new season ahead. I think tough times force people to take a hard look at their business and refocus on what’s working while cutting out some of the peripheral distractions.
I also finally got married and made it up to Baldface Lodge in 2012, so on the personal side of things the year was incredible! The best party ever and the snowboard trip of all time in one year. Those were a couple lifetime highlights for me. This year was another tough one for core retailers. How do you support your core accounts specifically?
Whatever we can do to help them build demand for our brands in their market. We try to help support various shop events with whatever promotional resources we have available. Whenever possible we try to leverage the marketing power of the brands we represent to help our accounts locally. We also spend a fair amount of effort helping to promote local riders and develop new talent for our brands. The Midwest region is so big that it’s hard to be in all of the stores as often as we would like, so we try to have somebody on the ground in each market flying the flag for our brands. Whether that be a shop employee or a team rider, you’ve got to plug in to the local scene if you want your brand to be relevant.
What are your predictions for 2013?
I’ve got to believe we will have a better snow season and maybe retail will bounce back a bit. I also think hometown boy Dan Brisse is going to three-peat for Gold in the X-Games Real Snow contest, because he’s a savage beast and can’t be stopped. Anything else you’d like to add?
Many thanks to my customers who voted for me. Also to the folks at Volcom & C3 Worldwide who I have had the pleasure of growing up with. Over my years in this business I have been fortunate enough to find a home with some of the best brands in boardsports. Companies that are run the right way, by people with honest integrity. That’s something that’s not as easy to find as it should be for a sales rep. When you enjoy the people you work with, it’s pretty easy to go to work every morning.
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.