Shoppers to this Armonk ski and bike store will find a lone patch of grass outside of the front porch complete with a small picnic table and swing. Inside, there's an assortment of pictures hanging on the walls and countertops.
Sounds cozy, right? That's precisely the point -- and one of the secrets to its 57-year-old success.
Some history: Jimmy and Roberta Ross founded the store in 1961. It was once the home of a friend, but Jimmy curated it into an exclusive ski shop with equipment for both competitive and recreational skiers. Winterwear was also a strong component.
Skip Beitzel, a tall 63-year-old smiley-eyed Chappaqua native, was made a part of the family in 1968 when he was a freshman at Horace Greeley High. He swept the floors on weekends and came back to work years later in between breaks while attending the University of Vermont.
In 1968 when the Ross's retired, Beitzel bought it from them and continued the "homey" tradition, tweaking the business along the way. He continues to sell ski equipment but expanded into bicycles in 1990 to help sales during the other seasons. The two, he said, have a lot in common in terms of the equipment and service requirements, making it a good merge.
The main attraction, however, is the experience. According to Beitzel, the "family" aspect hasn't changed since its original days, making his store "special," especially in these days of big box shops.
In fact his wife, Mckayla, and son, Mac, also work with him. “The store looks different and I think in some cases it smells different with the cedar wood that we have and the [ski] wax we have over from the service center," he said.
“But it really comes down to who you’re working with.
"That’s the experience. I just had four generations of a family in the store. The great-grandfather wanted to witness his great-grandson getting his ski equipment. It was amazing.”
It's all part of the family ski and snowboarding leasing program that Ross implemented years ago which allows families to lease ski and snowboarding equipment for the season rather than buy. The program now services 2,500 families, according to Beitzel.
His job, he said, doesn’t lie in selling goods; it’s in maintaining the 12,000 square-foot building much like a homeowner and keeping his clientele close-knit much like a parent does his family.
“My job description says ‘keeper of the karma now,’ and that’s how I consider myself," said Beitzel.
"I make sure that the store experience is uphill and maintained and passed on each and everyday.
“You never realize how big (of a job) it is to maintain, but I want to keep the house maintained.”
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