I work for a large mail-order company that sells outdoor recreational goods; one of those businesses that small retailers say are killing brick-and-mortar stores … and to some extent that might be true. I hope not though, because I sure do like having a local shop to go to for things.

I do realize that the brick-and-mortar stores might need to change their business model in order to survive, however … the best retailers always emphasize service, because there are some things that mail-order businesses like the one I work for simply cannot do … things like bike fits and position checks, boot fits, bike or ski tunes, and repairs.

I don’t think I’m a difficult customer when I’m on the buy side … I certainly hope I’m not … but I do have high standards for service.

So when I find a good shop that meets my standards, I try to give them as much business as makes economic sense. I don’t generally ask for, and don’t expect to get a deal. I ask “how much is it going to cost?” and pay what I’m told if the price seems good … especially on labor, because time is valuable. If I do get a deal, that’s fantastic, but if not, then so be it.

What I do most of all when I find a good shop is refer, refer, refer …

Eric Flynn’s shop, Flynn Cyclery is one such business, and I have posted about him and referred people to him on many occasions … but today, it’s about someone else.

For the past 4-5 years, I’ve skied very little … and the main reason for this is because my boots were killing me. I had a bad boot fitting experience, but didn’t realize it until after the fact when my boots never felt comfortable, even after what seemed to be a reasonable break-in period while the liners were allegedly getting packed in even after heat molding.

I’m not going to publicly post the name of the shop where I had this bad experience. I’m going to talk about the shop that’s helping me rediscover the love.

I bought new boots today through my employee deal; I’ve asked friends and colleagues for recommendations on where to take the new boots to get them fitted, and the answer almost universally was to take them to Muskie at Sports Den on Foothill Drive … so I did.

I told Muskie who I worked for and that was where I bought my new boots. I tried my new boots on for the first time with him, and tried on a pair of different boots that they had in stock, just for comparison. Ultimately, between the two brands, I decided the ones that I had originally chosen were the right ones for my feet, and we started the fitting process by heat molding the shells and liners.

Once the molding process was completed, there was still one small area of discomfort, so Muskie worked on getting that taken care of until we got to a point where I decided that it was good. The boots I’ve worn for the past 8 years or so never felt as comfortable as my new boots do.

While still wearing my new boots, I started asking him questions about potential new skis … I want something fatter than my current skis for when I get back into Honeycomb Canyon, but I also want skis that will still be good carving groomers on the front side, so we talked about some options for at least 45 minutes. Yeah, the boots were comfortable enough that I didn’t bother unbuckling them and taking them off until I was ready to settle the bill and head home.

Muskie knows that I will not be buying a set of skis from Sports Den; it really makes no financial sense for me, working where I do, to buy big product hardgoods from them. I get the deals, I’ve got to use the deals.

What Sports Den will be getting, however, is my dollars for service. I will spend money renting demo skis from them. Once I decide on skis and bindings, the Sports Den will get my labor dollars for mounting the bindings, and they will be getting my ongoing dollars for ski tunes and any necessary repairs and those “oh hey, while I’m here, I need XYZ” last-minute/spur-of-the-moment purchases.

Most importantly, however, is that they will also be getting my referrals. If people ask me where in Salt Lake City they should go to rent demo skis, to get boots fitted properly, etc., you can count on the fact that I will be telling them to go to Sports Den.