Leisure retailer Alpin Haus will expand its Route 30 location to meet increased demand that has intensified during and after the COVID pandemic.
“We’ve had such demand over the years, and it’s just grown between here and the history of Clifton Park and everything we do in the capital area,” said company president Andy Heck. “We are on a growth trajectory and the pandemic has taken it to a whole different level.
Recreation was one of the winners because they could safely do things outside with their families, they didn’t have many options for vacations.”
To meet demand, the company is expanding its Amsterdam site by 15,000 square meters.
Heck said the company owns the space it’s on and operated a gym next to the company’s Route 30 store in Amsterdam, but decided to close it to make room for the retail store.
Alpin Haus, a family business, was founded in 1964 by Bud Heck with John Daly. Daly sold his shares in the company to Andy and Greg Heck in 1994. The company started out as a ski equipment retailer, but has naturally evolved over the years to include other recreational opportunities, including RVs, snowmobiles, boats and swimming pools, Andy Heck said.
The company will also build a new store on Route 86 in Wallkill, an Orange County town.
“It’s been in the works for a while, but we just closed in the countryside this week,” Heck said Wednesday.
He said this will replace the Port Jervis store from which the business has outgrown.
Much of the growth lately has come from people wanting to camp, buy pools and RVs, or take up skiing and other outdoor sports during COVID because school athletic programs have shut down and people have been unable to travel for a time.
As school sports teams play again and travel is possible again, people still want to enjoy camping, their own pools and hobbies like skiing that they picked up during the pandemic.
“Every year we’ve grown a little bit, but all of a sudden we saw that there’s a whole new excitement about people being outside in every way,” Heck said.
Heck said he believes the company’s family-centric approach has helped it continue to grow over the years and gain recognition in the leisure industry.
“We’re really concentrating on that,” he says. “I think we’re going to record that [more] maybe than some other companies that do what we do because it’s so important to us,” he said.
Heck said almost everyone in his family has a recreational hobby, including skiing.
“We have our family ski days and things like that,” he said.
The company has six locations in the capital area, the Hudson Valley and New Jersey.
Recently, the company was named one of the Top 50 Blue Ribbon Dealers by RVBusinessmagazine and has been recognized in the past, including the nomination Snow Sports Retailer of the Year; National Top RV Dealer of the Year; Ski-Doo District Dealer of the Year; and has been recognized multiple times as one of the top places to work by the Capital District Business Review, according to a previous company press release.
“It feels really good and satisfying, especially for our team who have worked so hard over the past few years,” he said. “Like everyone else, we’ve done a good job with staffing, but we’re a little short on staffing, but not terribly so. So they’ve all had to work harder and I think it’s a small feather in their cap to be recognized by our industry and by our peers.”
The company employs around 200 people.
Heck said he, like many other companies, is monitoring how the current economic climate will unfold and what impact it could have on the business.
“We’re worried like everyone else because we’re consumer discretionary, so one of the things that people cut back on our sales is when times get tough, so we’re definitely watching for that. At the same time, we know that when we talk about economics, people have jobs, so that’s different from this economic cycle. Americans love vacations, love to do stuff, so we think business is going to be good, but we just don’t know.”
Heck also said that you have to take into account that many people have outdoor hobbies that they no longer want to give up.
“Whether it’s white-collar or blue-collar, we’ve seen that everyone wants to be outside,” he said.
Heck said they actually started selling skates as some communities open rinks to the public.
He said as they expand, they still face challenges when supply meets demand. It’s an issue they’ve been dealing with since things started to pick up during the pandemic.
“The good thing was that so many people wanted what we had, but the bad thing was that sometimes we didn’t know when we were going to get stuff or if we were even going to get stuff,” he said.
He said it’s better to go this winter, but there are some things they still get hard.
“Because a lot of what we do is kind of global, on the ski side of the business we’re not getting junior ski boots this year – they didn’t build them for America,” he said. “We don’t get cross-country skis because they didn’t build them enough for the world.”
Heck said they are working with customers to find other options.
While there have been challenges, there have also been surprises, such as older adults getting back to skiing, Heck said.
“People in their 50s and 60s are getting back into skiing,” he said. “That was kind of exciting.”
He said many people walked in with grins and a childlike giddiness excited to get back into something they grew up with.
“Either they do it for their kids or grandkids and that’s kind of cool,” Heck said.
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