Sports equipment consignment store expands
April 11, 2014
When Skis on the Run, a ski and snowboard rental delivery service, was founded in 2001, current owner Patrick Fannon was a Wall Street investment banker working for Bear Stearns’ technology group. He had just been transferred to their San Francisco office where he met his future wife, Elizabeth.
In 2008, after a decade-long career and having become one of the youngest managing directors at Merrill Lynch at the age of 37, Fannon and his wife had just welcomed their second child. Together, they realized that having Fannon around for his children’s big moments was a priority, and Fannon decided to make a career change.
"We got lucky, because as [my wife and I] were having this important life conversation, I was made aware that Skis on the Run was for sale," he said. "In six months, I quit my job, sold my house, pulled my kids out of school, bought a business I knew nothing about and moved to a town where I knew no one."
Six years later, Fannon has grown Skis on the Run to the point that he now has a second business, Switchback Sports. In the last couple of weeks, Fannon has been able to expand both businesses into larger spaces.
Skis on the Run was originally located behind Windy Ridge Café on Iron Horse Drive, and in 2011, Fannon squeezed his new business venture, Switchback Sports, into a small corner of the store. After experiencing a surge in business, Fannon said the two operations no longer fit in their original location.
"The businesses kept growing, and they just didn’t have more space for us," he said. "So I met with Mark [Fischer], and the timing worked out great. However, as we went into the winter, I could see that we were going to need even more space."
Fischer, owner of the property, worked with Fannon and the owner of Whimsy Clothing to come up with a solution. As it turns out, Whimsy Clothing was comfortable with moving to a new location at 1351 Kearns Blvd., and Fannon was able to expand Switchback Sports into Whimsy’s old location next door. His businesses now sprawl completely across the ground floor of the building at 1685 Bonanza Dr.
Fannon attributes the successful expansion of Switchback Sports to the growing number of children in town and their desire to try all different kinds of sports. He started the business because of his experience as a parent and the growth of his own children, both physically and developmentally.
"The cost of accessing sports in this town is expensive, because everyone wants to play hockey or go skiing. They are all expensive youth sports," Fannon said. "Very selfishly, I thought, ‘Why is there not a place I can go and trade in and out of kids’ equipment?’ [Buying brand new gear] is a big investment to make to see if your child will or will not enjoy a sport."
Thus, Switchback Sports was launched. Customers can take their equipment into the store, and they will either buy, trade or take the equipment on consignment for a 50 percent cut of the sale. If the item is valued over $1,000, 60 percent of the profits will go the customer and 40 percent will go to the store.
Fannon said he believes the reason Skis on the Run has fared so well over the years is due to his and his wife’s personal involvement in day-to-day operations. "In a small town, personal relationships are important," he said, adding that he is also very thorough when it comes to hiring employees.
College-educated, plans to live in the area for two or three years and hopes to eventually move on professionally are some of the criteria Fannon looks for in employees. He also makes sure they are able to interact appropriately with clients while fitting them for ski equipment in the privacy of their own home.
Fannon said he is proud of the growth the businesses have experienced in the past several months, but he does not plan to be complacent.
"You have to always be focused on growing your business. It’s like that saying goes, ‘If you’re not growing, you’re dying,’" he said. "The steps we’ve taken in the last 18 months, moving away from where we were, giving ourselves more space, investing in the infrastructure of the business, we have laid the foundation for what we are going to be capable of doing for the next two or three years."
Skis on the Run: