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Aspect Board & Brews | Bend, OR

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Aspect Board & Brews Owner Discusses Craft Beer Crossover Sales

Location(s): 1009 NW Galveston Ave. Bend, OR 97703

Owner/Mgr.: Katie Sayers

# of storefronts: 1

Square footage: 1,250

 

Aspect Board & Brews

is a snow and skate shop located in Bend, Oregon. The area is a hub for microbreweries and offers endless adventures for outdoor enthusiasts. Bend is 20 minutes away from Mt. Bachelor, and the Deschutes River runs right through town, along with scenic mountain biking and hiking trails everywhere.

Not your typical board shop, Aspect Owner/Manager Katie Sayers decided to add a 12-tap beer garden and outdoor patio this past August. Whether heading home after hitting the slopes or getting off the river, what better way to end a day than enjoying a cold beer at your favorite, local shop? Sayers discusses the decision to add the taproom, the results so far, and how it has impacted all aspects of the business.

We are located on an extremely vibrant street in Bend, and it is becoming more and more of a destination,” explains Sayers. “As a boardshop, we weren't utilizing that street frontage to it's fullest. Now people can sit out on our patio and watch all the action while sipping on a beer.

Background on how/when/why you started this business. How did you choose the location?

I worked at this store the first time in 2000 for about a year, then came back to work here in 2006. In 2008 the previous owners were closing and I had the opportunity to buy it.

What were you doing before running this business?

I managed many other board shops over the years and was a sales rep in the industry for a couple of years.

How would you describe your shop? What makes it unique? What do you think you're best known for?

Our building was built in 1920, so the shop itself has a unique, warm feel. We try to make all of our customers feel welcome, and try to keep the "too-cool" vibe from entering in. I think we're known for being nice, helpful.

How many employees do you generally have at one time?

When we were just a board shop, I had one full-time employee and some winters brought on a part-timer. Now with the Beer Garden, I have 2 full-time and 1 part-time.

How do you recruit, train, and retain good employees?

Most employees I've had have been recommended from friends at other shops. As for training, I've developed a handbook over the years as a guide, and then for the last 3 years, I've really left training up to my main employee, Elliot, as he is much better at it than I am!

I always operated very slim and healthy with the board shop, and had to take that risk of getting loans and embarking on a big construction project to add the beer. But we're gaining momentum out there, and I am very hopeful. Beer in Bend just seems like a good bet! I'm hoping we'll see some more traffic in the store too from the beer garden, people we may not have captured otherwise.

What have been some key milestones in the shop's history since you opened?

Our biggest milestone just happened this last year when we opened the Beer Garden and went from being Aspect Board Shop to Aspect Boards & Brews. I always operated very slim and healthy with the board shop, and had to take that risk of getting loans and embarking on a big construction project to add the beer. But we're gaining momentum out there, and I am very hopeful. Beer in Bend just seems like a good bet! I'm hoping we'll see some more traffic in the store too from the beer garden, people we may not have captured otherwise.

What was your reasoning behind adding the taproom?

We are located on an extremely vibrant street in Bend, and it is becoming more and more of a destination. As a boardshop, we weren't utilizing that street frontage to it's fullest. Now people can sit out on our patio and watch all the action while sipping on a beer!

How has the recent addition affected business in the last year?

The addition itself (construction-wise) affected business drastically while we were under active construction. But since we've had the beer flowing, it has helped us to work our way back to normal.

Does the taproom help enhance the culture at Aspect? If so, how?

I think so! I feel like good, craft beer just goes hand in hand with the high quality brands we carry in the shop. And who doesn't like a nice, cold beer after enjoying a day at the mountain or at the skatepark?!

Has the rental business always been part of your business model?

We have always done snowboard and ski rentals. My first year owning the shop, I strongly considered doing away with ski rentals since we don't sell skis, but I was proven wrong that first winter when ski accounted for a large portion of our rental business. We also cater to a lot of families, and so by offering skis as well as boards, we're able to take care of the whole family.

What are the pros/cons of doing rentals in your boardshop?

There have been seasons where our rental profits have helped us pay off product bills earlier and/or easier than we would have otherwise. The only con is that occasionally we will be so busy with rentals that we can't give the attention to a retail customer that we need to. It's not very common, but it has happened.

Do you have an online storefront (e-commerce)?

We did in the past, but it became a bigger expense than it was bringing in. It's hard to compete for clicks against the big guys. We still do a small amount of accessory sales on Amazon.

If so, what percentage of your business is online vs. Brick and Mortar?

About 2%

Do you operate a private label brand?

We have shop-branded Skate decks.

Are your private label sales a significant percentage of your business? If so, what percentage?

They are about 2% of overall, and 8% of total skate sales, and wow, 27% of deck sales. The biggest thing about the shop decks is that we have our skate team on them, it's part of their sponsorship, and so we get really good exposure locally from that.

How do you transition from winter to summer seasons?

The usual – put the snow stuff gradually on sale, start to fill in the skate and longboard departments.

CUSTOMERS

Describe your typical customer. If you don't have a one specific type of customer, please define or break down your customer base.

We have a pretty varied customer base at this point. Our skate customer is largely younger kids, with the old schooler or the parents who are getting into it again, and their kids mixed in. With snowboards, we seem to get more of the adult rider as opposed to the park kids, though I'd say we're growing that demographic. And so far with the beer, we've seen a huge amount of locals from our neighborhood coming down and they seem to be of all ages. Definitely people who would normally not find a reason to come to our store under other circumstances. It's great.

BRANDS/PRODUCTS

What percentage of your inventory is dedicated to…

Hardgoods = 60%

Men's Apparel (not really a category specifically for us) so, Outerwear for Men & Women = 14% (all carry over from winter)

Women's/Juniors Apparel (not a category) so, Shop branded tees & hoodies for Men & Women = 4%

Footwear = 3% – I think we will see some growth in the next couple years on categories like footwear and accessories due to the increased traffic we expect to see from the beer garden. These are items that people will be interested in even if they don't skate or snowboard.

Accessories = 6%

What brands have you carried the longest?

Never Summer and Ride for Snow

Sector 9 and Arbor for Longboards

Creature, Independent, Bones, and so many others for skate

What are currently your three most profitable product categories? Have they changed within the past year? If so, how?

-Private label T-shirts and hats.

-Sunglasses

-Beer

These are all newer categories, or new to be doing so well. All of that change is due to the beer sales.

What has been your best selling brand over the past 6 months?

Ride and Salomon are neck and neck for our snow brands. Creature and Independent are our bestselling skate brands.

What's your overall impression of the local market over the past year?

Because we are located in a ski town, the rough winters the last couple years can be felt throughout town. We're all hoping for a good winter.

What are some things that brands are doing to help your business?

Our inside rep at Sector 9 is always making sure we have what we need to make a sale. He keeps us flush with ballcaps and stickers to sweeten the deals we can make. Also, our Skullcandy reps always make sure we have tried the latest and greatest so we can educate our customers–and they are the same reps for us for Stance and they make sure we all have Stance on our feet!

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 9.10.49 AMBUYING/PREDICTIONS/TRENDS

How have you altered the way you buy over the past few seasons?

I kept everything pretty steady over the last few years, but I bought very conservatively for this upcoming winter. We've seen a few bad winters. Skate is so much fun to buy for because it's all at-once for us. I order every week and it's based on the sales of the week before, it's so refreshing compared to the risk and guess work of pre-booking for snow.

Are there any profound trends that you're noticing right now in your region? Overall?

The only thing that really stands out to me is our Stance business. Who knew that socks would be so popular?

What are your expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months? 1-3 years?

6-12 months – hopefully have a healthy winter, keep things conservative.

1-3 years – I have high hopes of accessory growth from our beer garden, I hope to see that come to fruition, and I hope to see some renters in the winter staying for a beer after they drop off their gear. This first winter with the beer was so hard to tell because we didn't have the normal rental traffic we usually see due to weather.

Where are you seeing the best margins?

Beer – which is a big reason I brought it in. To put it into perspective though, I have to sell 100 beers to equal one mid-range snowboard. But I think it will add up.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Name the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special.

Olio NorthwestJak Green and Jason Hume – we do Salomon and Bonfire, Skullcandy, Stance and Celtek with them. They are one of the most attentive rep groups we have, they check in with us consistently and always make sure my employees are educated and have gear to try out and experience.

Never Summer as an entire brand, and Tim Eberly as our rep – these guys work so closely with all of their retailers. The sales manager, Gags, checks in with us at least on a monthly basis just to see how we're doing storewide and what they can do to help us move Never Summer. This season Tim and his team held a demo at our store and got customers up to the mountain on their demo fleet.

Scott DowningVon Zipper, Coal and now we'll be working with them with Capita, Union and 32. Scott is always on top of checking in on us, seeing what we need, what needs to be filled in. With things like Sunglasses, I just don't find the time to figure out what we need, but if my rep is on top of it, they end up getting orders out of me. It works for both of us.

I'm also excited to be working with Topher Laws with Ride, I've worked with each in the past but never together, and I think it's going to be a really good merger of a great rep and a great brand.

It's been nice to see our snow manufacturers building more conservatively. There were seasons there for awhile where the amount of closeout gear that would flood the market made it almost impossible to move our carryover stuff. We didn't stand a chance to even get our cost back out of things. But it feels healthier.

OVERALL

What's one key lesson that you've learned through running this business?

That you can't make money without spending money. I get uneasy about overextending myself, or taking the loans out to start the beer garden, but staying safe and stagnant will not get me anywhere.

What is your top concern for your business and/or the industry as a whole right now?

Weather. Always weather. We need snow in the winter, and now we need sun in the summer for the beer garden. And it doesn't matter how smart someone is running a business like mine, such a key ingredient is out of our hands.

What makes you optimistic about your business and/or the industry right now?

It's been nice to see our snow manufacturers building more conservatively. There were seasons there for awhile where the amount of closeout gear that would flood the market made it almost impossible to move our carryover stuff. We didn't stand a chance to even get our cost back out of things. But it feels healthier.

What are the standout events that you host or programs that you run for consumers?

We host a skate contest locally each summer that a lot of the kids around here get really excited for. We also offer a deck loyalty program, where our system tracks your purchases, and for every 6 decks you buy, your 7th is half off.

Do you expect your business to grow over the next year?

I would like to see it get back to the numbers I have done in the past. We've had a couple years where we've been down, so I'd love to just get back to what we've done before!

Last specific moment that really made you love your job?

When our skate team did really well at a contest and I was getting updates and photos from the team manager throughout. It made me really happy that I'm doing what I'm doing.

Do you sponsor a shop team? Who are some of your standouts?

We have a snowboard team and a skate team, and this summer is the first time I've had a team manager who has turned our group of riders into an actual team. Kyle Coffman is the father of 3 boys who are all on my teams, and he has started a weekly team practice, trips to other cities for contests, etc. It has changed everything! We keep a young, up-and-coming roster, so all of the kids have incredible potential and it's so rad to see them getting better all the time.

  To learn more about Aspect Board & Brews visit their websiteydqaaawzasvvq

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