The Youth Shelter Supply crew. Photo: Lane Kloskowski

In 1998, Emmet Klocker, Adam Bovee, and Mike Thienes, who had all worked at a local skate shop together since they were 16, opened The Youth Shelter Supply in Waite Park, Minnesota. They set out with the goal of creating a clean, inviting shop that was "the ultimate skateboard and snowboard shop."

In 2011 they reached that goal in the minds of their reps and brands by earning the TransWorld Business Retailer of the Year Award for the Midwest. We caught up with Thienes to learn more about their approach in the highly competitive region.

What's the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and customers?

The most rewarding part for me is working with local customers and getting them into the sport.  Gripping a kid's first deck or mounting their first snowboard is really special to me.  I enjoy seeing their reaction and creating a customer for life.  As far as brands and reps, it is a really small family of good people with common goals and the same passion, so it is really easy to weed out the clowns that don’t belong.  I have always been really close with other shop owners, those guys are like my brothers and are not just trying to sell me some stuff.

What's your philosophy on the role of core retailers?
Core is a tough word…  I see our store as a skateboard & snowboard specialty retail shop.  I see a lot of stores become too core or too cool for some customers and end up vibing potential customers.  Every person that walks into my store is a potential customer and it's my job to help them get the gear they are looking for regardless of their taste or style.  If all our focus went to “cool guys” we would be out of business.  What is really cool is seeing a customer going from a dork, helping educate them, and overtime they become the core customer that bleeds for the store.  Most of our team guys used to be clowns, over time with a little direction; they became ambassadors of the shop.

Photo: Lane Kloskowski

What makes your shop different?
Well every shop owner works 40 to 60 hours a week.  A big difference for me is I filmed and produced snowboarding and skateboarding edits 42 of 52 weekends this past year [with Bald E-Gal Produtinons].  The other owner, Mike Pettit, rips harder than most of the shop team on his free time.  I am sure there are other shops owners in the same boat, but I guarantee no shop owner has ever spent as much time filming or documenting the two sports as I have, I really enjoy that.

Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?
Hopefully our brands view us as a solid partner for their brand in central Minnesota.  I also think some video contests we did like Neff East vs. West and DC Chris Cole shoe review helped let vendors know about us.

What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2011?
The biggest highlight for me was getting the St. Cloud Skate Plaza built.  That has been a dream of mine for so long!!  Also being able to shoot with shop rider Dan Brisse for his ESPN Real Snow gold metal was pretty cool.

The low light was the day Apple released Final Cut Pro 10, what a joke.

Photo: Lane Kloskowski

This year was tough for core retailers. What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year's past?
My business partner Mike Pettit really dug into our books and we trimmed a lot of fat.  We are really on top of what sold previous seasons and are not over pre-booking product as we may have in the past.

What are your predictions for 2012?
2012 will be a year filled with hard work, but really fun and rewarding

Anything else you'd like to add?
I am really blessed to have worked with such talented and creative people at The Youth Shelter Supply and with Bald E-Gal Productions.  It really has blossomed into a lot of friends doing some cool shit in our industry.  Big ups to our staff, team riders, venders, and families!

Photo: Lane Kloskowski