Thursday, October 16, 2008

Working Three Jobs

Working in this shop is like having three jobs. In bike season it's all bike shop (except for the clothing). In the winter it gets more complicated. Nordic skis are our core business, but Nordic skiing suffers more than farming from adverse weather. The weather IS the crop. So the winter division spawned a couple of alternatives, most notably hockey.

Each transitional season, fall or spring, has us moving heavy objects and boxes of merchandise and equipment, enduring days of tedium, trying to cling to sharpness and information related to the season ending and the one beginning.

In the transition from summer to fall, biking dwindles, but does not disappear. The dedicated cyclists want to see us as bikey as ever. Hockey starts to pick up. Ski merchandise arrives like a few stray flakes followed by an avalanche. Our main shop serves as the headquarters for a non-profit that oversees the local trails, so that revs up as well. Later in the fall we start to work on setting up the Jackson seasonal shop. And that's where it really gets another personality.

The J-town shop is 50 miles from Wolf City. After just a few days there I feel like a colonial governor in a remote posting. I go from spending a nice hour on the bike going each way to spending a mostly tedious hour in the car. The situation has its pluses, but has its own unique demands.

Jackson is a pure Nordic monoculture. We have a token array of snowshoes, but for some reason they don't seem to move well up there, even though the touring center rents them. Mostly we sell skis, skis, skis, and clothing and peripherals to go with them. That was nice at first. When we were the new flavor of the month a lot of people checked us out. As the seasons go by, customers make up their own minds year by year or week by week about whether to stick with us. They travel to sample newer entrepreneurs or settle into long-term relationships with shops that can be open all year up there. We're a bit like a Nordic convenience store or an airport gift shop, except we have to price match with every low-ball warehouse on the Internet, just like in the bike biz.

Well before the end of ski season I've settled into Jackson's little, little world, like it or not, and nearly forgotten what a bike shop is like. Then spring comes, somewhere between January and late April. I start pulling shifts back in the 'boro. The tips of my fingers turn black. I start getting those little knuckle wounds common to mechanics. As the weather dictates, I start to trudge the weary road on my bike again.

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