Longtime employee purchases Main Street’s Norsk Leather & Fur Inc.
Paul Zembruski says Norsk Leather & Fur Inc. on Main Street feels more like his home than his own residence. He has experienced plenty of ups and downs in it.
He met his wife at The Park Hotel, which shares a building with the leather goods store, and he has raised his kids, grieved his parents’ deaths, and seen customers and a town transform over his 31 years working at the shop.
“I have seen the town change from this unique perspective. Just from right here,” he said. “Not a lot of people have ever had that.”
That experience is one of the biggest reasons Zembruski recently purchased Norsk Leather & Fur Inc., as well as the property it sits on.
Zembruski grew up in Southern California and moved to Utah in his early 20s to work at Snowbird ski resort and spend his off time on the slopes. Then, he met John Jensen, who changed the course of his life.
Jensen owned Norsk Leather & Fur Inc., which had locations at Snowbird and Park City. Jensen offered Zembruski a job at his store, and he accepted the offer in 1989.
He helped the store transition from two locations to a single store in Park City. The Park City store had opened in 1987. Zembruski immediately took on his new role.
“Really, almost from the beginning, I was the main sales guy in here,” he said.
He stuck with the store through the Olympic boom and the recession years later, making friendships with guests and dealing with occasional anti-fur protests. The people, he said, are what he came to love most about the store. And the things he sells are a plus.
“I still get excited when I unpack the boxes. I love the product,” he said.
One of his favorite things to do is pair a customer with what he sees as the perfect jacket. Sometimes, he said, someone will walk in and he immediately knows what product would be best for them. Then there are the guests who sit and talk with him for three or four hours. One couple has been visiting the store to chat and drink wine with Zembruski every year for 15 years.
“I’m a little bit taken back from it. It’s amazing,” he said.
So, when Jensen moved to Boulder, Colorado, and Zembruski felt a change coming, he started to worry. A little over a year ago, Jensen told him he would be selling the store. Zembruski was not sure if he could take it on. He knows it has been difficult for many small Main Street businesses the past few years amid a shifting market.
But, the thought of letting the store change under someone else’s leadership or close altogether was too sad. Zembruski knew he could not let that happen.
With financial help from the couple who has visited and shopped from Zembruski for 15 years, he purchased the store and the property. The store reopened under his ownership on Dec. 7. Now, he cannot help but smile when he tells his guests, “I own it now. I own everything.”
He knows it is not going to be an easy path, and it has already been a challenge becoming the owner. He is learning on the job how to manage the financials and run a business while being the go-to guy for any questions about the store’s products.
But, being able to call the shots is liberating as well, he said. He decides which decorations and products go where. He said he plans to continue to tap into the store’s history by hanging up ski memorabilia this year. Already, old skis and pieces of Park City’s Old Town Lift decorate the store. That history, he said, is one of the defining parts of the store and neither it, nor he, are going anywhere.
In May, the long-time owners, Joy and Geir Vik, announced their retirement and passed on the business to the Brian and Dena Merrill, and their son, Dylan, who had been their friends and colleagues for years.
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