Saturday, November 20, 2004
John Kole and the One Stop Ski Shop epitomize what it means to be a 21st century mom-and-pop ski shop in one of the world's biggest ski resorts. Kole has been mounting ski bindings since he was a teenager in the late 1960s, working on a bench in the basement of his parents' New Jersey home.
With his wife, Deb, Kole and his veteran staff will open One Stop's second location at 703 Lincoln Ave. in the Harbor Hotel on Monday.
The One Stop staff hope customers will make two stops. But changing the name of the store would have been way too confusing. And besides, Kole will be offering the same individual service he's been providing from his present location on Yampa Street since 1990.
One corner of the new shop has been set aside for a coffee bar offering a variety of hot drinks and juice. There's a gas stove resembling the potbellied wood burners of old and a couple of comfortable chairs waiting for customers who want to spend a few minutes swapping stories about the day's turns.
"The coffee bar was Deb's idea," Kole said. "We're hoping for more walk-in traffic here on the corner of Seventh and Lincoln. We think we'll see people who never knew we were down there on Yampa."
The existing store, 729 Yampa St., still figures prominently in the One Stop's plan. Barely a block from the new store, it will be devoted to customers seeking rentals and demo skis. By transferring his inventory of new skis and boots to the new shop, Kole said he would be able to give customers more rental fitting stations on Yampa Street and design a more orderly workflow for employees and customers alike.
Kole and operations manager Pete Dawson, who has been with the One Stop for 15 years, are master boot fitters. Their custom boot-fitting operation also will move to the Harbor.
Employees, including Andy Hogrefe (the best Alpine racer on the staff), will move back and forth between the two shops for different shifts.
Running two shops has necessitated boosting the number of employees from eight to 12.
"This is the first time we've had a full crew hired before Thanksgiving Day," Kole said.
Kole learned his trade at the shoulder of his late father, Walter, who ran the sporting goods department of a Bambergers store in Nanuet, N.Y. During ski season, he often drove his powder blue Volkswagen home to New Jersey loaded with customers' skis and boots. Walter subcontracted the ski-tech work to his department store, and young John would help him mount the skis.
When Kole opened his shop in Steamboat, it was in a tiny space in the former Ramada Hotel. Now, he says, he needs to grow again.
"I felt we were getting a little bit stagnant on Yampa Street," he said. "We were limited in what we could do."
It was always a struggle to sell ski clothing in the cramped quarters in the house on Yampa Street, Kole said. Now he has a bright new shop where he can put more emphasis on winter sportswear, including ski sweaters and vests by the Italian maker Disegna. The shop also will carry clothing lines by Marker and Solstice, and after-ski boots by Emu.
The new One Stop will feature a wider variety of outdoor accessories and gifts including watches, pocketknives, SmartWool socks and Swany gloves.
Skis by Atomic and Blizzard and boots by Dalbello remain standard, as will the advice and information Hogrefe and Dawson can share with customers about the latest technical innovations in ski construction.
The interior finish on the new shop has a custom look thanks to the woodworking skills of Kole's brother, Mike, who installed a pine floor in the coffee corner and built many custom display shelves.
The public is invited to stop by the One Stop's "second stop," beginning Monday. People are invited to grab a hot drink and make themselves comfortable. And, if they think of it, bring a doggie treat for Ted the powderhound. Any mom-and-pop ski shop has to have a resident black Labrador, doesn't it?