evo Founder Bryce Phillips On New Store, Skatepark, And More

evo Founder Bryce Phillips

It would be hard to one-up the year evo had in 2011. But after winning the TransWorld Business Retailer of the Year and Hardgoods Retailer of the Year and celebrating its 10th-anniversarythe Seattle-based shop managed to once again raise the bar, opening a new store in late 2012, and moving with forward with plans to reopen a huge skatepark as part of the complex its located in, dubbed The Fremont Collective.

As the sun set on 2012, we caught up with evo Founder Bryce Phillips to learn more about his company’s evolución.

We last “officially” caught up around this time last year for your 10th anniversary. It sounds like your 11th birthday might have been even bigger with the new store opening. Tell us a bit about the new space. Sounds like a lot of history there.

The new space builds on what we established in our first location adding a long list of elements that make it much more dynamic and work to create what we think is an extraordinary customer experience. We took two old adjoining buildings built in 1910, originally a mattress factory, and 1960 and fully converted them into what is now “The Fremont Collective”, collection of concepts including two great restaurants, evo and soon “All Together Skatepark,” aka ATS. The spaces are extremely integrated with lines of site from each concept to the other. Playing up the soulful materials and architecture that existed when we got the building and layering in the new design and uses make for a really cool contrast and a feel that’s  all but impossible to create in a brand new building.
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evo’s new location

Why did you decide to move locations? What’s better about this one as far as traffic, layout, etc?
There are so many factors that we’ve been able to improve in when considering some of the retail basics and what was needed to optimize our store. While we are only a mile away from our last location, it’s now incredibly central with easy access off of I-5, Highway 99, 45th, The Burke Gilman Trail and even Lake Union. We are on a prominent corner with very good visibility at a four-way stop and have added considerable parking with a dedicated evo lot just across the alley from us to the east on 35th. Additionally, we have 50 percent additional selling square footage and an entire building dedicated to female shoppers. We always said that “People are risking their lives to get into evo!” which was true in our old location considering the busy corner and lack of parking. While we broke of the fundamental rules and still outgrew the location, we continued to ask ourselves, “What would happen if we followed some of the rules?”. At our new location we are definitely feeling like we made the right move.
It sounds like you guys are keeping a lot of the same vibe that helped evo become a gathering point for the community at the old store. What kind of events are you planning to host at your new location to bring people together?
We learned a lot in our old space and specifically, we learned that our focus on creating the true center for the community was both the right thing to do and good for business. In our new location we’ve really elevated that focus to a new level in regards to designing the space for events, gallery openings, music and all of the other opportunities that we are fortunate to be a part of. We worked closely with Skullcandy on a state of the art sound system. You’ll see the venue style marquee out front, the outdoor rotating mural wall, a stage in the women’s 1910 building, a lounge over the cash wrap and a more tightly integrated gallery that you can’t miss as you walk through the main floor. We’ve already had live music, ladies’ night and a host of other events that we’ve also positioned to help give back to non-profits including The Service Board and we are just getting started.

Follow the jump for more on the new skatepark and video from the 10-year anniversary party in the Fremont Collective.

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You guys held your ten-year anniversary party in the Fremont Collective building--did that get the wheels turning about moving there?
No question it did for a lot of people. Some of us already had it in the back of our minds but it wasn’t solidified until months later. It is pretty cool to have had such a major celebration in the space pre-construction and then to see people blown away who hadn’t seen it since our 10 year party.
Did you close the old location?
Yes. It is soon to take on a new life as Makerhaus, the common thread being that their mission is to establish the space an anchor for the Industrial Design and “Maker” community.
What are you most hyped on in the new building and how do you see it helping evo grow?
The new building has allowed us to visually merchandise in the way that we have in the past but became more and more difficult as our volume grew so the shopping experience is much better now. Also, the connection to the restaurants and park creates a really amazing energy while maps to the customers’ lifestyles which for us is the icing on the cake. We are driving traffic into each other’s doors all day long.
What other plans do you have for the space?
There’s always the long tail of little details that work to further differentiate the space but by far what we are most excited about next is the opening of All Together Skate.
You guys are currently working on reopening the indoor skate park below the new store. Tell us a bit about its history and the project.
Yes. It’s an extraordinary opportunity and one that we feel extremely fortunate to be able to lead while working with members of the community to launch and run successfully. Before evo had decided to move into the building, Innerspace Skatepark had been open for 8 years. They established something special in the Seattle Community standing the test of time. After a long run, Mike Martinez, Innerspace owner came to me and let me know that it was time to move and that he believed in the park and what they’d accomplished but it was a financial struggle and he wanted to focus on his family and the next leg of his career. While we were bummed that there would be a period where there wouldn’t be an indoor park in all of Seattle, we also saw it as a clear sign that we needed to make sure that the park came back given how important it is to the local skate community. evo CEO, Atsuko Tamura and I met with a long list of Seattle’s most passionate skateboard pillars and landed on a plan to bring the park back. Now that the store is officially launched, we are focusing a lot of time and resources on getting it open.
Where did you get the name “All Together Skatepark”?
We landed on this as it reflected how we see this park being established in the future as a place for all that love skateboarding to come together in this space. We expect this to be true across all lines including other retailers in Seattle such as SnoCon, 35th, Alive and Well, Stussy, Black Market the list goes on.
How big’s the park and what will the layout be like?
The park is roughly 8,000sf all in which includes a small check-in/retail area, place to watch etc. In regards to the design, we’ll be sharing it soon so stay tuned but trust that it will be an innovative new park with an entirely new design, tons of art and a really positive vibe. Thank you all for being patient as we work to get this off of the ground. On that note, we are in the midst of signing up sponsors and would love to talk to those that see the value in bringing this park back for the community. We already have some great brands signed on, TBA, and look forward to rounding it out.
How much of your business historically has been skate? How do you see that evolving? Seems like a good push for all four seasons having this indoors and so close.
Skate has been tiny for us as a percent of sales. It’s really important for us to be able to build on a category with a really solid foundation in place. A “foundation” in this context doesn’t relate to infrastructure or finances but how we relate to the community and what we are involved in that speaks to our commitment to the sport. We’ve lived and breathed snowboarding and skiing from the beginning but with skate, while we have a lot of employees that are passionate about it, we haven’t yet felt comfortable really making strong moves. Our involvement with ATS and all of the things that we can do to further solidify how we engage the community 1st and foremost is what we love to do and be a part of and secondarily, provides us with the foundation to grow the category.
You mentioned that the new retail space sets the stage for more marquee locations. Where else are you looking to spread the evo brand?
Our brick and mortar retail concept and how we do it takes a lot of time and focus so while we look forward to exploring new cities, we also acknowledge that it won’t happen quickly. I’d say that we are very excited about bringing new energy to new markets but that we aren’t yet ready to talk about where new locations may be.
How would you describe the store’s overall feel and set up and how does that tie in to evo as a brand?
I think that the new evo is one of the best examples of truly evolving a space given it’s long history and the beautiful elements that you can build new mixed in with modern style and a unique-to-evo aesthetic. That in itself is a direct reflection of our brand given that one of the major philosophies at evo is that the world and business are always changing and we need to remember that in everything that we do as we look to be a better and better business. Also, the space was completely designed for flexibility lending itself to a broad spectrum of events knowing that we want to continue to strengthen our focus on being a place for the community where people share common passions and values. I’d finish saying that to truly get a feel for the space and the entire Fremont Collective, you have to come check it our for yourself.
Last winter was tough for most of the country on the snow front, but the Northwest was definitely a silver lining. How did you guys fare and how are things looking so far this early season?
The Northwest has been good and we feel extremely fortunate both because we have been able to enjoy all of the snow and of course it’s been good for business. That said, we definitely felt and are feeling the lack of snow last year nationally and hope to see a strong resurgence in the market over the next 30-60 days. It’s been pretty ugly given the hangover from one of the worst national winters on record. The good news is that it’s looking deep in a number of spots outside of the Northwest right now and as I write this, it’s piling up in the mountains!
What are your goals for 2013?
Personally, to have a healthy, happy baby (due in May!). At evo we just want to continue to improve everything we both on the web and in store while keying in on what makes the brand and experience different. For ATS, just can’t wait for the launch.
Last words?
ATS projected opening, March 2013.