Local sets up outlet for used outdoor gear

Posted: Monday, July 28, 2003

In a back room in the Emporium Mall downtown, tucked about halfway between Heritage Coffee on the Franklin Street end of the mall and the Kodiak Coat Co. on the other end, Nick Foster has set up shop.

Late last week, two tents were set up on the floor of the room. Two bikes were hung from the ceiling, and another was on the floor. Polypropylene, Goretex and hemp outdoor wear draped off of hangers attached to a wood platform in the middle of the room. The latest copies of a new outdoor magazine sat next to the cash box, where Foster had set up a chair to wait for customers.

This week, it's likely to have a different layout, as more gear gets bought and sold.

Foster opened the West Tower Consignment Shop in mid-July, and he is asking fellow outdoor enthusiasts to drop off their gear, set their ideal price, then wait for other outdoor enthusiasts to pick it up.

"When we opened last week it was, like, me and four jackets," Foster said.

The jackets went, a kayak came; the kayak went, tents came; some tents went, new tents and bikes replaced them; and gradually the inventory increased to include hiking boots, ice axes, snowboards, skis, backpacks and a pair of X-tra Tuffs.

"I'd like to see more people get outside," Foster said. "And these prices are rock-bottom, so it makes it accessible."

Frank Clark, who has been playing in the mountains around Juneau since he moved here in 1984, sold a Marmot brand tent at the store, and is trying to sell a bicycle and a roof rack.

"That tent was kind of a ritzy tent, and it would have been hard to sell if that store hadn't been around," Clark said. "... I think that place will work out pretty well."

Foster, 23, first had the idea of opening an outdoor-gear consignment shop in Juneau when he visited a similar shop in Ashland, Ore., last year. He returned to Juneau early this year and decided to clear out some old gear lying around his house.

"I put a sign up on a bulletin board and it all went pretty quickly," he said. "Things kind of clicked in my head and I thought, 'I could open a business.' "

He solicited items to sell among his friends, and as word got around, more inventory came in. Foster has collected gear from about 15 sellers, he said.

Though most of the inventory in the store is previously owned, Foster is selling T-shirts made from hemp that he orders new from a company in Minnesota. He also is selling the first three issues of Alpinist Magazine, a journal published in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Foster has no prior business experience - he has worked as a commercial fisherman and at Rainbow Foods - but he has extensive knowledge of outdoors sports and gear, he said. He can help sellers set fair prices, and help buyers pick the right gear for them.

For now, Foster is the sole employee of the store, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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