Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 32

POWER COUPLE
Andrew and
Shelley Dunbar
bring their business
acumen running
Sea to Summit's
North American
distribution to the
retail game.

"We had some really good climbers, and
they'd climb all the hard routes and never do
the easy ones!" he says. "So I had to make that
a rule: You also didn't get your bonus until you'd
been at the store for a year, because if you rush
off and do all these peaks, and I give you a bonus,
and you quit, well, you haven't done anything
with it for the store."
"The bonus pay wasn't really to give employees a reason to get outside-they were already
doing that," says Gary. "It was to give them an
incentive to actually write it down. That way we
really got to know who were the rock climbers,
who had done the hard routes, who had done
the easy stuff, who had skied in Norway. If we
hadn't done that and used it to help customers,
we would've just been another generic store
that got put out of business."
If the store's Neptude was intimidating for
customers, it could be the same for employees,
too. When Daniel Vardamis, who still works
at Neptune, started in 2010, he was trained by
another long-term employee who, during an
expedition to the Himalayas just a few weeks
prior, had come within 100 feet of summiting
K2. His other hobby was BASE jumping, and
one morning before work, he decided to get a
jump in off of 14,259-foot Long's Peak, in Rocky
Mountain National Park.
"He climbed up the mountain, BASEjumped off of the Diamond, and then got a tattoo before showing up for work," says Vardamis,

32 OUTDOOR RETAILER

/ Winter 2019

45. "I'd been in the shop for two weeks, and I was
like, 'Who is this guy?'"
It was those types of stories that made
Neptune a legend in the outdoor world. It's
also, arguably, what kept the shop's doors
open as the internet blossomed and REI
moved into town in 2002. In the mid 1980s,
Boulder had roughly four outdoor shops. By
the mid 2000s, it was really only Neptune and
and REI.

SINCE THE DUNBARS TOOK OVER, NEPTUNE
is thriving, in part because they have managed
to merge an updated shopping experience with
the history and institutional knowledge of the
old store. Of Neptune's nearly 30 current employees, more than half a dozen worked under
Gary before he sold the store to Backwoods in
2012. One employee, Pam Roberts, worked in
the store in the 1980s before she left to become
a school teacher, only to return in 2017 after retiring. Her late husband, a well-known climber
in the area, also worked at the store.
"To compete with online, you've got to have
something that is exceptional, that can't be
found online," says Shelley, a former professional climber. "For us, part of that is the staff,
these people that are super knowledgeable but
also really approachable."
When the Dunbars first considered buying
the store from Backwoods, they began talking
with current and former employees who left

during the downslide, and they also reached
out to Gary, who had come to regret his decision to sell. "When I sold, it was time," he says,
"They said all the right things, 'Oh, I really
need your staff, and expertise,' but next thing
I knew they'd fired the best of my people because they got paid the most. And the other
people were like, 'Woah, I better start looking
for other jobs. This doesn't look like it's gonna
last long.'"
Once the Dunbars officially bought the store
from Backwoods, and brought back as many
employees as they could, the next order of
business was completely gutting the building.
The store hadn't been updated in years. Low
ceilings, worn carpet, and fluorescent lighting
made it feel like a cubicle farm. "It always had
kind of a grungy vibe to it," says Shelley. "And
some people liked that, but it was actually a
terrible retail experience."
The Dunbars hired an architectural firm
and then leveraged their experience as vendors to create the ideal store. Years of traveling
around North America, selling Sea to Summit
gear, had helped them to see firsthand what
worked in a shopping experience and what
didn't. They took ideas from the best stores
and made sure to avoid the pitfalls of others.
"We strived to be like the best vendor that we
worked with at Sea to Summit," says Andrew.
"We really came at it with the mentality: 'What
did our retailers need to be successful?' And
we thought a lot about how to have this store
be a cool place for customers."
They wanted Neptune to retain its community center vibe, so they added a café with
free wifi (password "powderday") and worked
with an employee to create a series of weekly
talks. They also wanted Neptune to continue
to be a resource for newbie climbers and skiers, so they collaborated with guiding company Colorado Mountain School on installing its offices in the store. Today, CMS clients
begin and end each day at Neptune, making
it easy for them to pick up a last-minute gear
essential or Clif Bar. It also allows Neptune to
refer its customers to CMS if they have questions about learning a skill or figuring out the
right spot to use their new gear in the wild.
Other additions to the layout include a climbing wall and an open-space floor plan in the
shoe department that can easily be cleared out
to accommodate folding chairs for the weekly
talks, attendance at which can swell to 300
people or more.
The Dunbars also worked with Gary to



Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019

OUTDOOR RETAILER - WINTER 2019
CONTENTS
THE PULSE
HEADLINES
MERCHANDISING
MARKETING
BIG PICTURE
GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
CASE STUDY
IDEAS
WHITNEY CONNELL
SHERYL DEBOARD
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH
RESEARCH
NEPTUNE’S REVIVAL
MOVING THE NEEDLE
SKI TRADITIONS
BREAD+BUTTER
KNOW YOUR WINTER SPORTS
MADE IN AMERICA
WORK WEAR
COUNTER CULTURE
THE VIEW
HOW I GOT HERE
#REPLIFE
FROM THE ROAD
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - OUTDOOR RETAILER - WINTER 2019
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - Cover2
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 1
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - CONTENTS
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 3
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 4
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 5
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 6
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 7
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 8
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - THE PULSE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - HEADLINES
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 11
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - MERCHANDISING
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 13
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - MARKETING
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - BIG PICTURE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 17
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - CASE STUDY
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 19
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 20
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - IDEAS
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - WHITNEY CONNELL
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - SHERYL DEBOARD
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 25
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - RESEARCH
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 27
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - NEPTUNE’S REVIVAL
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 29
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 30
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 31
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 32
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 33
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - MOVING THE NEEDLE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 35
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 36
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 37
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - SKI TRADITIONS
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 39
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 40
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 41
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 42
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - BREAD+BUTTER
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - KNOW YOUR WINTER SPORTS
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 45
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - MADE IN AMERICA
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 47
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - WORK WEAR
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 49
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - COUNTER CULTURE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 51
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - THE VIEW
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 53
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 54
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 55
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 56
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 57
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - HOW I GOT HERE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 59
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - #REPLIFE
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 61
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - FROM THE ROAD
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 63
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - 64
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - Cover3
Outdoor Retailer - Winter 2019 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/outdoorretailer/dailySM2022_Day3
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https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/outdoorretailer/daily2022_Day2
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/outdoorretailer/daily2022_Day1
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/outdoorretailer/daily2021_day3
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