Welcome to our Small Biz Spotlight series! An interview series focusing on local retailers and what makes them special. Our very first interview in the series features Dave Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports.
Tahoe Mountain Sports is an eCommerce-turned-storefront that specializes in quality outdoor gear, clothing, and footwear. Located on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Truckee, CA, Tahoe Mountain Sports is an adventure enthusiast’s paradise and the most recent recipient of the Retailer Inspiration Award at the 7th Annual Outdoor Inspiration Awards.
Over the course of our conversation, Dave and I talked about the challenges of an ever-changing retail landscape, the importance of community involvement, and how speaking up to brand partners can make all the difference.
Start off by telling me a bit about your history.
We started Tahoe Mountain Sports about 12 years ago as three ski bums with $1,000 each around a campfire. We opened as an online-only business back when eCommerce was fresh off the boat and hot. We then opened a brick-and-mortar, my wife bought in and the guys got out, transforming TMS into the family business it is today. I felt like we had matured as an online business, but when eCommerce started to explode and we looked at what it took to maintain the business, it just wasn’t making money. We decided brick and mortar was where it was at and that’s where tools like Promoboxx and a larger community focus strategy have come into play.
What makes your business different or unique?
There are three main things that help us stand apart. The first is community involvement. We’re always throwing events and raising money for organizations and youth programs. My wife and I strongly believe in being a part of our community, not just selling to our community. We try to give back as much as we can, whether that be through volunteer hours or event production.
The second is environmental work. Our work relies heavily on the beautiful public lands around Lake Tahoe and so we support the environmental and access issues that affect our industry, like keeping those public lands public. We like to talk about that when we have the platform to do so.
The final one is at more of a retail level, in our product curation. You’re going to shop at a store like ours not because we have a huge breadth of products, but because we have experience and choose the best products. We put a lot of thought and testing into what goes out on the shop floor.
Tell me a bit more about your community events. Do you have anything coming up?
We have four major events, thought the most unique is probably our Taste The Adventure – Camp Cooking Demo in mid May.
After that, we move into the Truckee Running Series – five summer races that raise funds for the Auburn Ski Club, which we provide more info to in our blog post, Ultimate Guide to Trail Runs in Lake Tahoe.
Our other events are more community and local focused and run during the offseason. We love being able to get people in the store during the transition times to give them an idea of products that are seasonally curated, outside of the main sport season wares.
How about attendance, do you find more locals or visitors taking part in your events?
Types of attendees will vary based on the event we’re holding. Some events are held in partnership with local organizations and get local audiences involved. For our running and race events, we draw people from all around the country and have larger brand sponsors, like Osprey, The North Face, and Salomon. They have a much broader audience, and we market them nationally using local ad programs on digital media.
If you had one piece of advice about digital marketing for a new retailer in the industry, what would it be?
I had a tough time when I first heard this question. But I kept gravitating to, and I don’t mean to toot your own horn here, that Promoboxx has really been a valuable tool in our transition away from our eCommerce team. When we had that team, they were responsible for all social media marketing, digital media advertising, and co-op usage.
A lot of what Promoboxx has done has shifted back to my store staff and allowed us to stay fresh on social and digital media without a huge dedicated staff. All joking aside, I do think Promoboxx has been a great tool.
Outside of Promoboxx, though, I’d tell them to engage with their biggest vendors. Engage with the vendors that you have the most leverage with. Ask for co-op. Ask for funding for ads, don’t be shy, and use that co-op after you ask for it. A brand partner can’t read your mind if you don’t ask for a partnership and don’t ask to be a part of that brand’s voice. If you ask and keep asking, eventually they will say yes.