Since June of 1991, family owned Gear West has stood tall as a bastion of local business principles; focusing on service, customer relationships and maintaining an experienced staff. Over 28 years as a specialty sports retail business, their steadfast dedication to these principles is as important as ever.
Jan Guenther talks with LocalTies about the past, present and future of Gear West in our Q&A interview below.
Q: What was the inspiration for starting Gear West?
A: Mixing work with a passion for running, biking and skiing! Way back then, when the internet was on dial up and not a formidable competitor. I felt if we could give really great, honest service, and a little bit better service than others, to all those who are excited about the sports of skiing, biking and running, we should succeed.
Q: What factors do you believe have contributed to Gear West persevering as a brick and mortar retail shop in the age of Amazon?
A: The human touch including bike and ski service that cannot be purchased on Amazon. Gear West exudes enthusiasm for all that we sell, and those who want to share the excitement and learn more about their sport than just through a click of a button, come to us.
But retail is very hard in the age of Amazon; those who succeed are unique. Gear West is one-of-a-kind because we are a single family owned business in a specialty sports campus. That means you the customer will experience really great GW staff with talents we could not duplicate if GW had multiple locations, and we offer knowledge, service and product in running, biking, triathlon, xc skiing AND alpine skiing. GW is a specialty mix of gear ALL found in one location in Long Lake. Now that’s pretty unique. And we ship skis everywhere there is snow. Also, your kids can be entertained by the store poodle, Prince.
Q: How many and what type of local events does Gear West do each year?
A: We support a lot of community events and organize our own events including: The Gear Western 5k and ½ Marathon and Gravel West, a fun gravel ride, both in October; the Women’s Wine, Chocolate & XC Ski in December, the Twilight 5k and Kids Fun Run in July, Corn Days 5k in August, plus a host of moonlight night hikes, weekly bike rides including the Birch’s Thirsty Thursday fun bike rides, demo e-bike events and more.
Q: What is your favorite part about the Gear Western?
A: OUR CUSTOMERS! My favorite place is working the sales floor and meeting customers I have now known from 1 year to 29 years. Sharing customer stories and solving their athletic needs whether they are small goals or big ones is very rewarding for me. You do not have to be fast or fit to come to Gear West; a fun, can do attitude is the spirit we all love.
Q: What new items are you most excited about that launched in 2019 or are coming for the next snow season?
A: I am excited about everything with snow for the winter! We have a talented service department and super knowledgeable skiers who will send you outside with the warmest clothing and the most fun skis. GW offers kids trade-ins and rentals as well. And of course, there are always FAT bikes for snow fun and then summer is back with running, road bikes and triathlons. Always great reasons to go outdoors and stay fit.
Q: What is one thing you’d like your customers or the general public to know about Gear West that they may not?
A: If you like human interaction, enjoy learning from someone with experience about skiing, running or cycling and treat us with the respect we strive to treat you, I really believe you will have a wonderful experience here. And most importantly, you do not have to have run races, or be fit to walk through our doors. We are here for everyone who wants to learn what we know and love. Stop by and bring your kids, dog and fitness desires to this nearly 30 year old store in little town of Long Lake, Minnesota.
Q: Why did you decide to go solar this year?
A: Lots of solar salespeople have knocked at my door. Chris (SolarPod) is the only person I let in, and it was not easy for him. I also view solar as an adventure and we have pride in our Gear West building here in Long Lake. I feel we set the standard of a unique, classy business and to be a little unique means we will try solar and see if we can save some money while contributing to the development of solar power as a means of promoting green energy. Plus I am told we have the perfect roof.
Gear West, SolarPod and LocalTies invite you to the Gear West Solar Party in the spring of 2020. Stay tuned to LocalTies and Gear West for more details to come. In the meantime, hope to see many of you at the Gear Western on Saturday, October 12!
Gear West 952-473-0377