686 Shop Profile is touring the globe and the latest stop is at evo, a destination ski and snowboard shop in Seattle. evo is more than just a ski and snowboard shop though: it’s an urban oasis for those espousing the urban / mountain lifestyle serving as store, art gallery, event venue and a community hub for the Pacific Northwest. Founded by professional skier Bryce Phillips, evo has been making waves for about 10 years selling both online at www.evo.com, their premier destination for skis, snowboarding equipment, wakeboards and even skateboards. In their words: evo explores the collaboration between culture and sport by seamlessly joining fashion, music, art, and sport. Through our unique events, movie premiers, art exhibitions, and partnerships we are simply providing a venue to share what we love. Passion for building community is a driving force; both on a national level and locally here in Seattle.
How did evo get started?
Bryce (our founder) was always selling gear of all kinds since he was a kid. It was a great way for him to support himself while he pursued a professional skiing career. His side gig started getting serious when he began buying up huge chunks of ski and snowboard equipment from a few mountain demo centers in Whistler and Colorado around 2001. We were a big eBay seller back then and were growing like crazy. From the very beginning he always wanted to do something different and build community around the brand. Our earliest “tent sales” would have break dancing crews and DJ’s.
What’s new at evo?
We’ve been busy this last year. There’s been a ton of improvements to the site and the store and too many amazing events to mention.
Online, one of the new tools we launched to make shopping easier is a Product Compare tool. Wow, big deal, right? Well, while not a new idea per se, we like to think that our compare tool is a cut above the rest. Take a look and hit us with feedback: 686 Jacket comparison.
Still buzzing from an incredible company retreat at Crystal Mountain, we’re looking to make some big moves again this year. We’re celebrating our 10th birthday this fall with a massive party here in Seattle. It’s been too long since we threw a truly awesome party that can hold a torch to Talib Kweli kicking off the opening of the store. Also dropping this fall is our first ever catalog that will not only highlight some amazing product, but truly communicate the evo brand. Stay tuned.
How long evo has has been carrying 686?
It’s difficult to recall exactly but I’m pretty sure we opened up in 2005, shortly after we opened the Seattle Retail Store. With the first few brands we signed up like K2 and Ride were super fast. It was a matter of days before we had our own K2 Skis and Ride Snowboards pages up. It took longer for other brands like Burton. With those guys it took much longer before we had a full dealer account and a Burton snowboards page. Now we’re on great terms (but it was a wild ride getting there). We’ve always had a great relationship with 686 – even from the beginning - and will continue to represent the full line of 686 outerwear. We’re really excited about the partnership with New Balance. The combination of world class brands has resulted in a totally unique collaboration with the 686 Snowboard Boot line.
Tell us how the Seattle ski and snowboard shop began and how it has evolved over the years.
We knew we wanted to open up a store and were finally able to put it together in 2005. That was a crazy year that consisted of a lot of work and very little sleep. In the span of several months we leased a space in Seattle (Fremont to be exact), gutted and remodeled an 8,000 square foot building, launched a completely new version of our www.evo.com and signed up over 200 vendors. Opening the physical store was really the genesis of the evo brand because we could embody all aspects from parties to art to fashion to ski and snowboard gear. We’ve continued to build on that theme incorporating permanent art fixtures (like the Dale Chihuly exihibit)
The economy has been tough the last few years. How has evo protected itself from the challenges in the economy, especially as it relates to skiing and snowboarding?
I can’t say it’s been easy. We’ve made some very difficult decisions and tried to shore up our partnerships with the right companies. With all the challenges we’ve faced and changes we’ve experienced we’ve tried to stay true to our brand and culture which is the most important aspect.
How do you balance the Outlet side of your business with all the latest and greatest ski and snowboard product?
One of our overriding goals is to make the sports accessible for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Let’s face it: unless you’re pretty well off these sports are difficult to afford. That’s where the Outlet comes into play where we offer ski deals, snowboard discounts, and even wakeboard deals. From the very start we even have carried used equipment and still have offer a lot of used ski gear. In the end it comes down to accommodating riders at all stages of their interest and participation in the sport.
What makes 686 different from other outerwear brands ?
686 is a great fit for the evo brand. They give a ton of attention to functionality and quality but are innovating in rapidly in both design and marketing. The reclaim initiative is a great example where 686 is stepping out of the mold of a provider of apparel and reaching to higher levels of success. I also love new relationships with companies like New Balance, forging new partnerships in unique ways that add value for the consumer. In many ways 686 is a great fit for evo and is set apart from other brands.
What’s your favorite item in the 686 collection?
We have to give credit to the classic of the 686 line: 686 Smarty Cargo Pants and the Women’s Smart Cargo Pants. These are a huge hit and rank with the all time favorites. In addition, we’re big fans of the 686 Smarty Command Jacket, which has all the basic features presented in a muted, low key style. It’s hard to pick just a few because there are so many solid pieces. We’re also very excited about the 686 Times New Balance Snowboard Boots (also in the Boa version). The new line of New Balance/686 snowboard boots marry the style of 686 with the history and experience of New Balance… a compelling combo.
You are lucky to be surrounded by mountains. Do you manage to get some riding done during the winter or is it all about business?
Almost everyone at evo is passionate about the sports we represent. It’s difficult when the business has specific demands that compromise our ability to go play but we strike a pretty decent balance. Often we’ll take turns hitting pow days. For several years we’ve leased a cabin up at Hyak (near The Summit) for employees to use during the season and we also have a program that allows full time employees to get a brand new setup every year called “New Gear Every Year”. For obvious reasons it’s a huge hit.
Does evo “do” philanthropy?
We are wired to be a giving organization and have worked very closely with a wide variety of organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Direct Relief International, Carbonfund.org, and a host of others. We lean toward organizations that help children but at this point have been pretty liberal in who we help and how we support various causes. Sometimes we support by donating product for an auction, other times we volunteer time and in many cases we have provided direct financial support.
Where does the term ‘evo’ come from?
evo stands for “evolucion” which is a cool, South American way of saying we’re always trying to evolve and grow. We don’t want to get complacent or satisfied with the status quo, there is a better way and we’re determined ton continual improvement.
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