Ski season is upon us!
After months of renovations and bureaucratic wrangling, the Seattle-based action sports gear and fashion apparel retailer evo is opening its Portland store today at 200 SE MLK Jr. Blvd.
Evo’s new 12,000 square foot shop is in a huge, historic building formerly occupied by the Salvation Army at the corner of MLK and Southeast Ash, in the heart of Portland's up-and-coming Central Eastside. The neighborhood is home to Produce Row, Distillery Row, the newly expanded Portland Streetcar, some fast-growing start-ups and nearly a dozen brew pubs, along with the popular outdoor retailer Next Adventure and numerous bike shops.
Evo founder and CEO Bryce Phillips grew up in Roseburg, Oregon and skied Ashland, Bachelor and Meadows as a kid. His plan for Portland is to create a cultural community center as well as a store, a gathering place for music shows, art exhibitions, film premieres and fund-raisers.
The store will sell over 150 brands of skis, snowboards, skateboards, bikes, apparel and accessories, and employees started moving around product on October 27. It's a big, open retail space with plenty of room for events, and the first art exhibition features the work of skier/artist Eric Pollard. Pollard is an amazing skier who is also well known for his creative film work with Nimbus Independent and his graphic art skills producing top sheets for Line skis.
There is also a free brunch with Line Skis scheduled at the new evo store for Saturday, November 1 at 10 am. And then on Saturday, November 15 evo is throwing a grand opening party with music, drinks, food, a silent auction and dancing, with funds raised to benefit the Chill Foundation.
Evo's store debut follows months of work knocking down walls, building stairs and remodeling and chasing down permits from the City of Portland. In June I got an inside peek at the building while evo was midway through renovating it into a modern store. It was definitely an ambitious job - and probably an expensive one too.
In a YouTube video released November 8, 2014, Phillips describes the new Portland evo store as a "beautiful old soulful shell, juxtaposed with all of this modern product."
Time will tell whether the new Portland store is a good investment for evo. Oregon's independent ski and snowboard shops have been scrambling to stay in business with all the low-price competition on the Internet. At least three shops have gone under in the past year: the Ski Chalet in Beaverton, the Mt. Hood 26 Board Shop in Welches and the Bob's in East Portland, and the former powerhouse Exit Real World recently stopped selling snowboards. All those losses resulted at least partly from cheap Internet deals. But whereas most retailers treat online competition as the enemy, evo's approach has been web-based from the beginning.
Evo launched in Seattle in 2001 with a mission to promote the collaboration between culture and sport. The company sponsors pro athletes such as Andy Mahre, Austin Smith and Kimmy Fasani, and carries products from Oregon brands including Dakine, Nike, ON3P Skis, and Poler Stuff.
In an interview with Shred Hood last January, Evo founder and CEO Bryce Phillips said evo's goal is to be more than a business. He and his team subscribe to eight core values to guide evo as it expands: authenticity, balanced ambition, credibility, style, leadership, respect, communication and evolution. For more on the evo world view, check out this link.
"We can't wait to establish evo in Portland as a place for people who share a passion for skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, music, art, travel and the lifestyle that we live and breathe," said Phillips.
It will be worth paying close attention to exactly what Phillips and evo bring to Portland that is new, given the new store's close proximity to the popular outdoor store Next Adventure a few blocks away, the Mountain Shop a few miles away and U.S. Outdoor Store just across the Willamette River.
They have definitely succeeded in transforming a historic building into a promising urban space. It will be interesting to see what that space evolves into.
Here is the YouTube video Phillips and evo released to promote their new Portland store: