As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Today, local businesses, especially small mom-and-pop retail stores like Silver Star Ski & Sport (1825 Three Kings Dr, 435.646.7827), have to adapt in the face of big-time retailers throwing up storefronts on Main Street and, of course, online competition.
“We’re one of the last of the little guys,” says owner Todd Fischer. “We only have one store, and there’s no online buying or shipping from a warehouse. We actually have a [face-to-face] conversation with our customers to help them make the right purchase.”
Located a snowball’s throw from the Silver Star chairlift, Fischer says their store has held its own against online giants and brick-and-mortar franchises for one reason: He’s adapted to the needs of his customers and his employees.
“You can get bike and ski gear anywhere,” Fischer acknowledges. “But you can’t get personalized attention, or first-hand product reviews, or an authentic experience anywhere. That’s what sets us apart.”
Likewise, there’s no shortage of “help wanted” signs around town, and it’s fair to say many of Fischer’s employees could find work anywhere. But they stick around because he has adapted to their needs.
“We’ve got a good retention rate for this industry,” he says. “One of the reasons for that is because I want everyone who works here to have as much fun as the customers renting skis from us are going to have.”
Fischer has gotten creative with the incentives he offers, including on-the-clock ski breaks, a paid commute for those who ride their bikes to the shop, and a focus on work-life balance (all part of the employee handbook).
“I’ve worked at a dozen ski shops in my life and most have a corporate America feel. But Todd has created a family-like environment here,” says Seth Lovering, who has been with the shop for five years. “We have a boss who cares about us, and we believe in the items we sell.”
But the biggest draw might just be the biggest droolers. French bulldog Tallulah and English bulldog Azalea are frequent smooshed faces in the store. They’re also the stars of the shop’s ad campaigns and have even garnered write-in votes on presidential election ballots.
“The dogs definitely add to the shop’s personality,” says Fischer. “No online store will ever be able to offer puppy kisses with a purchase.”