Most memorable crash?
My younger brother Max broke his back snowboarding this past winter, it completely changed my perspective of life and family. #IRIDE4MAX
Favorite local place to eat / grab a beer?
The Long Trail Brewery in the winter and Chef Brad's Crazy Side in the summer.
Where can we find you on your lunch break?
You can find me riding up the Killington Skyeship Gondola 1 mile east of shop for 5-6 runs before the afternoon rush.
Back in 1979, The Board Barn Founder and Owner Bill Elles opened his own ‘mom & pop shop’ with his wife Coral in Killington, Vermont. The shop embodies the original spirit of the Killington mountain area, and is literally a retired farmhouse and barn that has been converted into a snowboard shop. The Board Barn is attached to its sister store, First Stop Ski Shop.
Having a a ski and snowboard shop in the same retail space has ultimately benefited one another. Families can stop in to get everyone taken care of in the same place. The marriage of these two shops has also encouraged riders to more easily transition back and forth between the two sports. The Board Barn services both a strong local base of customers as well as weekend warriors and riders who only make it out to the slopes once or twice a year.
The shop has also experienced success with growing their summer time bike business. We caught up with Board Barn Brand Director Randy Elles and Founder Bill Elles to get their take on the local Killington market and running a family business.
What inspired you to open a shop?
"I didn't like the attitude at a lot of the other shops in the area… so we opened our own 'mom & pop shop' and never looked back." –Bill Elles, Founder + Owner
How long has your store been around?
Since 1979. The barn was built in the 1800s and is one of the oldest standing structures in Killington. We've got a bunch of classic Burton snowboards signed by Jake himself, the original Killington "K" Chairlift, and a bunch of rad posters and snowboarding memorabilia from back in the day.
Experience before opening your own shop?
My dad was flipping pizzas while my mom was baking cookies. I went to college for advertising & design at FIT in NYC so I've been able to help our shop develop a stronger brand image the past few years.
Our shop might look small from the outside, but once you step foot inside you'll be surprised how big it really is. My parents started the shop in a 300sq foot space that President Calvin Coolidge once used as his office and as the business grew they connected and converted the adjacent hotel, farmhouse, and barn into a 10,000sq foot retail space equipped with a full-service rental and tuning center.
What is your overall impression of the local market over the past six months?
Killington Resort had a great season, which trickled down to the area shops, unfortunately the local market has been saturated for a while and with the increase of online retailers and individual brands selling direct to consumers I think a lot of the shops in our area have struggled trying to understand how much inventory they can actually sell.
With the added pressure from reps to increase orders year after year it puts the retail buyer in a difficult situation. Do I take a gamble and increase my order for next year in hopes that we'll sell through everything this year? Or do I place an order that I am confident with this year in fear of the rep opening up additional dealers next year?
We've had a lot of success growing our summer bike business because we're able to place orders on a weekly basis in-season. We can order exactly what we need on Monday and it arrives by Wednesday, because of this we've been able to keep our inventory fresh and increase special orders for customers who would have otherwise walked.
What are your top three most profitable product categories?
Everything that keeps you warm in Vermont: socks, mittens, and mini heaters.
What has been the single best-selling brand over the past six months?
Who are the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special?
Matt Jageman, with Burton, is one of the only reps I know to pick up the phone every time I call. He's available and that's huge.
Josh Hudson, also with Burton, is definitely one of our best reps in terms of educating our staff about the latest technology.
Ian Feliny, with Yes Snowboard, understands what it's like to work in a core shop which has helped us grow the Yes brand considerably in the Killington area.
What store (or multiple stores) are your closest competition?
Shouldn't the question be which stores don't we compete with? Consumers have access to millions of online stores and over 20 brick & mortar stores in our area. There are a lot of great shops in Killington but I think what separates our shop from other stores is our service.
Overall expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months?
We're going to crush it for sure. We're stoked to add some new brands to our store and a brand new fleet of rental and demo gear for the 2013/14 season.
Is your shop altering the way you buy for 2014?
Of course, but we don't want to tell you our secret.
Is your shop working closer with any particular brands?
Burton, YES, Union, Lib Tech, Gnu, Holden, and so many more.
What are some things brands are doing to work with your shop?
Burton has always been good to us and is always willing to help out with events and clinics. Other brands like Yes and Union have also been able to help us out with events and promotions in a big way.
How would describe the snowboard scene in Killington?
There is a real mix. We've got a lot of core kids who ride 100 days a season. Then we've got a bunch of kids who ride once or twice a year. I think what separates our shop from others in the area is the way we treat the kid who can only afford to go once a year. Having split my time between NYC and VT the past 9 years I got a real understanding of how expensive the sport is and how tough it can be to get people into the sport.
How has having a ski and snowboard shop benefited one another?
Originally our ski shop, First Stop, and snowboard shop, the Board Barn, were separate, but in 2000 we decided to connect the two stores while merchandising the inventory by sport. There's a totally different vibe from one side of the shop to the other that our customers really dig.
Today, families can find just about everything they need under one roof and it makes it easier for people who want to try the other sport. Most of our employees snowboard and ski, granted some are far better at one sport than the other but it's good to have an understanding of both sports so you can relate to skiers who're trying snowboarding for the first time or snowboarders who are trying skiing for the first time.
How do you buy for a shop that serves both skiers and snowboarders?
We order a lot of accessories and clothing that a snowboarder or skier could use.
What categories have you seen thrive between both sectors?
Accessories and clothing thrive between both sectors.
How would you describe your staff and the culture behind the shop?
We're a mom & pop shop everyone who works for us treats our customers like friends of the family.
How is your shop involved in the community?
We sponsor multiple events in the area and several school teams. Team Board Barn supports 15-20 up & coming athletes every season who love to shred.
How has your shop developed a brand identity and message?
You'll see our orange BB stickers at resorts from Whistler to Japan.
Does your shop have any branded content?
T-shirts, hoodies, stickers, want one? Drop in or shop online.