And Bent Gate Mountaineering, Golden, Colorado
Twenty years ago Greg Floyd fetched up in Golden, Colorado. The town wasn’t much two decades ago. It was dominated by rednecks and Colorado School of Mines engineering students, a funky mix that was rounded out by a small but growing community of outdoor enthusiasts drawn to the spot due to great hiking, biking, kayaking and a pole position at the base of the foothills, within easy striking distance to Continental Divide, a bunch of 14ers and great skiing.
Floyd was a skier. A Wyoming native, he had spent a couple of seasons in Vail where he’d worked ski shop shifts between laps on the mountain. His sister lived in Golden and it was – at the time – affordable and eclectic, an interesting place to call home. It was also a town crying out for a core ski and mountaineering shop.
Influenced by the now defunct Gore Range Mountaineer in Vail, Floyd started Bent Gate Mountaineering. The store has thrived, becoming part of the fabric of the outdoor community in spite of the pressures on brick and mortar shops due to the Internet. The reason for its success is due to the captain of the ship. A Seventh Day Adventist, Floyd’s management style is infused with his faith. It’s an interesting management approach in the action sports world, where personal endevours are praised and large egos thrive. Here’s an inside look at one of skiing’s most interesting and successful retailers.
Tell us about getting your start in the retail business.
I was living up in Vail and the guys running Gore Range Mountainworks were such an influence. I never worked there, but I would always go and spend a ton of time just hanging out in the shop, it had such a culture of mountaineering and skiing.
When I moved to Golden I started to go to REI and EMS and the environment seemed so sterile at those stores, and then there was Neptune Mountaineering, which felt really elitist. It seemed to me that there could be some middle ground, a shop that combined the culture with the community, a community shop.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Internet has killed the core ski shop, how brick and mortar is a dying way of life, what’s your take on this?
I think that for the enthusiast user there is more than getting gear for the best price. For our customers the best scenario is a win, win relationship, not just winning on the price. We found that our best engagement is to bridge the gap between customers and brands. When the brands understand what the end-user wants, and we can connect customers to the brands that work the best for them.
It’s also not just about gear, it’s about a lifestyle. We do a lot of events from a ski season kick-off party to Backcountry 101 skills to ongoing programs, including a beacon event every other week. These events combine social with learning.
People in the outdoor industry, especially in skiing and snowboarding, don’t talk about religion very much, but you have a strong faith. How has that shaped what you do at Bent Gate?
My inner values came first and foremost when I started the business 20 years ago. We are closed on Saturday, for example. Many people said that’s the kiss of death in retail, to be closed on Saturdays. But that’s the day I spend time with my family and it’s freed up my employees to do the same. My old bike shop manager said Saturday used to be retail hell for him. We also have a group of employees that now go ski together every Saturday. For me, weekend time is family time, but for those guys going skiing, it’s their church. Saturday is the time to connect to the things that are important to you.
There are a lot of negative things associated with religion. I’m very spiritual and a lot of what people think of as religion screws things up. The being good to your brother philosophy from the Bible is very important. We expect our employees to treat everyone how they would like to be treated, to do the right thing to others. That’s the business model.
What brands are you most excited about for 2016?
Black Crowes. Everything they make is done with a skier’s perspective.
Favorite places to ski?
Silverton. I like long couliors with rock walls. I’m not so much of a cliff guy. I also got the chance to ski in Alaska on a K2 trip last year. The heli was circling above the lines and we were looking down and I was thinking, ‘we’re going to ski that!’ I also ski a lot up at Jones Pass and also at Loveland. It is 40 minutes from the shop to being on the chair if I go to Loveland.
What are you rocking out to these days?
Old stuff (laughs). AC DC, Motley Crew. I grew up in Wyoming, and my default playlist is hair metal.
Secret of your success?
For us it was really getting in touch with the local vibe. Interestingly enough, every few years that vibe changes, the people change. And it’s been the connections over the years with the people that has been my favorite part, seeing that enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Our staff. That’s what’s made the shop. They’re keeping things going.
Check out the shop: