Having first opened its doors in 1988, Underground Snowboards has remained a cornerstone of the Breckenridge shred community for over a quarter century. Run by ripping boarder Andy Schultz, and staffed by an incredible crew of passionate and active riders, Underground has prioritized a work/ride balance since day 1. Andy knows that this is not only for personal health benefits, but also to ensure that his sales staff is relatable and well-educated on all brands and products. Get to know Andy a bit better in the interview below, and hear what things are currently looking like for this stellar shop in our latest Stay Human, Shop Local feature.
Words by Andy Schultz
How did you end up working at Underground?
I walked in the front door for the first time at Underground Snowboards in the fall of 1996. I had just moved to town after doing the college thing and was ready to do whatever it took to snowboard every damn day. I had asked around as to the shop in town with the best rep and was told that Underground was hands down the place to be. I had a fair amount of experience working snowboard retail throughout my college years, so the founders and owners of the shop at the time hired me on as a sales guy. Eighteen seasons later, I haven’t left - only now I am part owner and do I have a spectacular, tight-knit crew working for me. Snowboarding as much as possible is still the main goal, and always will be.
Describe the current state of retail in your zone at the moment.
Retail in Breckenridge is definitely tough these days. Rent along Main St is through the roof and you definitely have to be on top of your game to stay afloat. There is no question that web sales have taken a bite out of what used to be a communal pie. Thankfully the consumer is still aware of what an independently owned shop like ours has to offer – knowledge, experience, and above all, a passion for snowboarding.
How do you incentivize customers to shop our store rather than online?
Folks come into our store to immerse themselves in snowboarding. I’ve always told my employees that their passion for our sport speaks volumes in terms of the success of our shop. Whether or not customers purchase anything, our goal is for someone to walk out the front door (in summer or winter) jonesing to go snowboarding. Our employees talk to everyone, from the touristy visitor to the know-it-all local to the seasoned snowboard bum who’s been here since the 80’s, always touching that one nerve that we all have – the fun of snowboarding. You’ll never get that online, ever.
What are the struggles of being an independent retailer these days?
Trying to keep snowboarding equipment from becoming a commodity. The consumer needs to realize that when it comes to buying snowboard equipment, there’s way more to it than who has the lowest price. Vendors need to pull in the reigns and make snowboarding equipment scarce again. I know that’s not in their business model, but when online stores always have crap left to sell for pennies, it makes it tough to sell the new and noteworthy gear. Educating the consumer is key here – they have no idea the difference between branded crap and quality gear. I have to teach people daily that you need to lace up a boot to see how it fits. That doesn’t even touch the intricacies of modern board bends, blended sidecuts, etc.
Is there a value in prioritizing a “core” presence as opposed to marketing to a more mainstream demographic?
There has always been a fine line here. We will always be core, whether people realize it or not. We live snowboarding. We do it every single day and are always waiting for it to snow again, whether it’s January or July. We don’t have to try to be core. Like I said before, the key is to let our passion speak for itself. It keeps people from feeling vibed. We’re not snowboarding because we think it’s the cool thing to do – it’s part of us and that shines through. It makes people comfortable and allows them to trust what you’re telling them. The second a newbie or tourist feels uncomfortable in our shop, we’ve failed. They’re our lifeblood. Creating new customers is a big key to longevity.
How do you engage your local community? What are you known for in town?
I like to think that we engage our local community by being here for them. Most locals these days aren’t paying retail for much, but when they do we try and take care of them. We offer a small discount on larger items, help pro-form shoppers try on boots, warranty ridiculously abused equipment, all hopefully with smiles on our faces. I think we have far and above the best reputation in town among snowboard-specific shops, and keeping the locals smiling is a sure fire way to do this. What are we known for in town? I’d say slapping high fives in the lift line on a POW-filled morning is what we’re known for.
What does “Stay Human, Shop Local” mean to you at Underground?
It means let’s keep the human component in snowboarding. Come talk to us, share our passion, buy some stuff from us, or just come brag about a sick day on the hill. I’m not sure what online shopping is for, but it’s definitely not for snowboarding.
Find Underground at the address below, and give them a follow on one of their social media channels to see what their day to day looks like.
Underground Snowboards – 320 S Main St – Breckenridge, CO 80424