Kittredge Sports celebrates the big 5-0
By Tom Cage’s calculation, “Outside of the Yodler, I think Kittredge Sports is the longest operating retailer in the same location [in Mammoth] – not counting lodging properties.”
*And remember, even the Yodler hasn’t been the Yodler for the past 50 years. There was that failed attempt one year at transforming the Yodler into a higher-end restaurant called Cervelli’s.
What began as Kittredge’s Bow Hut 50 years ago is still here, and as partner Joe Joerger says, “It still smells the same. It still looks the same … and at least once a week, if not three or four times, a family will come in and I’ll hear a father say, ‘My parents bought my first pair of skis here, and now I’m getting my daughter her first pair.’”
“Kittredge is like an old, worn out tennis shoe,” he added. “It’s comfortable … and there’s a real emotional attachment for people to the store, the sport and Mammoth.”
The store’s namesake was a man named Doug Kittredge, a well-known archer who also published an Archer’s Bible, a mail order archer’s catalogue.
Kittredge had founded the original Bow Hut in Pasadena in 1949, but opened another one in “semi-retirement” here in Mammoth in 1963.
According to Cage, a sales rep named Al Fairweather convinced Kittredge to buy some samples. That winter, Kittredge bought $500 worth of merchandise which he turned around and sold for $2,000. Thus, Kittredge Sports was born.
Interestingly, Kittredge Sports today still operates under the corporate name of “Kittredge Archery Company.”
As Cage says, there are less ski shops today than there were when he and Darlene and Joe Joerger bought the business in 1991.
He also points out that back in the mid-1980s, it was the “ski” business and that business did 1.3 million skier visits annually.
Now, even if you do 1.3 million skiers, half of that number is snowboarders. And back in the ‘80s, you also didn’t have to compete with that little beast they call the internet.
On the flip side, there used to be 20 or so specialty shops in Southern California catering to skiers; now there are three. So, says Cage, “If you want a selection of ski product, you go to a resort.” And the built-in advantage shops like Kittredge have remain its knowledgeable staff. “You get to touch the product, feel the product, demo, talk to people [employees] who’ve used it,” pitches Cage.
The average employee at Kittredge has been with the company about ten years. Some, like Donnie Meyer in the repair shop, have been in the business more than 40 years.
As Joerger says, “Our staff’s ability to share its passion with our customers is what continues to set us apart … we don’t rest on our laurels. We continue to keep up with the trends while retaining that relationship to our past.”
And the past remains sprinkled all over town, whether it be Hospital CEO Gary Myers and wife Karilyn, Jes Schwartzkopf, Ed Cereda, Vicki Larson, Howard Scheckter or you name it, a lot of local folks have worked at Kittredge as almost a rite of passage.
But when asked who he would consider the all-time most memorable employee, Joerger says with little hesitation, “Rhubarb Marcellin – the God of [Ski] Tuning.” Bleached color photographs of Rhubarb at work still adorn the upstairs repair shop.
Kittredge is having a 20% off the entire store sale this weekend as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. And for more on the history of the shop, check out the following link: www.tradrag.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=3172