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30/30: Martini Skate + Snow

VIEW: THUMBS ENLARGE
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The original Martini in Northfield, OH.

Martini Skate + Snow shops have popped up in three locations surrounding Cleveland, Ohio and it’s easy to see why. Originally opened in Northfield in 2006, the store is only minutes away from the closest “mountains” any Clevelander has access too. While Brandywine and Boston Mills may not be the ideal ski resort, riders are still treking to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to strap in. With the promise of snowboarders filing in every season, owner Mike Tirpak saw a golden opportunity to be a leading retailer in the area.

Tirpak saw an opportunity to build a different, modern shop that was amped to stock new snowboard equipment, unlike ski shops in the area who carried the products because they felt they had to. Although Mike considers Martini a snowboard shop before a skate shop, they still offer a full spectrum of skate equipment that draw skaters in every year.

With the success of the Northfield store, Tirpak saw promise in opening a second location in Cleveland Heights in 2011, and a year later opened the third store in Dublin, Ohio, which is the farthest shop from Cleveland – nearly 4 hours away near Dayton. If three retail locations weren’t enough, Martini also operates an online shop, which Tirpak boasts 30 percent of all sales. The stores even have an overflow warehouse to hold all the excess gear that can’t be packed into any of the three shops. Talk about a major operation.

We caught up with Tirpak to get the details on the shops that have been steadily popping up around Cleveland for more than a decade.

What is the approximate square footage of each store?

The Northfield shop in around 1,350 square feet, and the Cleveland Heights and Dublin stores are around 1,800 square feet each. We also have a small warehouse to hold additional inventory.

What was the reasoning behind opening your own skate/snow shop?

I wanted to do something different from all the other shops in the area. I started snowboarding in 1992, and always did the tour of shops every year only to find the same gear.

So I felt that I could be different and modern, getting away from the ski shops that sold snowboards because they had to, not because they wanted to.

Did you have any experience before opening the first shop?

I have many years of retail experience in the golf biz; I was a PGA professional and grew up working at golf courses for my dad. I learned a lot from him, and later, ran my own golf shop.

On the snowboarding side, my sister got me started in ’92. She was one of the first snowboard instructors at Brandywine (allowing snowboarding on the hills in 1990) and she later got into racing and was on the World Cup for a few years. I bought my first board (a Burton Craig Kelly Air) from her. I have been riding ever since!

So, it’s kinda funny: I played golf all summer and snowboarded all winter – works pretty well in Ohio!

What percent of business is online vs. brick and mortar?

Since launching our online retail site, martiniskateandsnow.com, grown like crazy; our online business is almost 30% now of sales now.

How are skateboard/apparel sales compared to snow/apparel over a full year of sales? Do you consider your shop more skate oriented, more snow, or split 50/50?

Really it’s a pretty even slice for categories – snow, footwear, apparel, and skate. But I do consider ourselves a snowboard shop first and skate shop second. No matter how ‘core’ you are in skate, if you sell snowboards, you’re a snow shop.

Which shop does best in terms of sales, and why do you think that is?

It depends on the season. Northfield does the most for snow gear and Cleveland does the most in skate/shoes/apparel. Dublin is still pretty new, but this will be the breakout year – lots of Martini stickers will be found on snowboards at Mad River for sure!

What has been the best selling brand over the past year?

Nike SB – both in shoes and snowboard boots.

What are some things brands are doing to work with the shop?

We are working with Nike Snow to do a local movie premiere for ‘Never Not’ and Burton Snowboards has worked with us on their Local Colors program in the past, making a shop logo snowboard, boot and bindings. This season we will be part of a super limited snowboard release. We will also be one of just a few shops in the Midwest to carry Adidas Snowboarding for their first season.

Who are the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special?

It’s hard to limit it to three reps, all of our reps do an awesome job helping us, but I can point out:

Mike Cox / Levi Ryerson (Burton/Anon/Analog) , Emmet Klocker / Andy Conrad – (Volcom/C3/Electric), and Mike Buchmann / Nate Coan (Nike).

These guys all have our back, and do a great job with all our needs and services.

What’s your overall impression of the local market over the past six months?

The beginning half of this year has not been bad, I do see the trend of people looking for sales/promotions.

I’m optimistic for this winter – it’s been two straight weak/late years for snow. If we see an early snow, I think sales will be great!

What stores are your biggest competitions?

There’s always the local ski shops/ big box, but I don’t see them as direct competition. We are passionate about the sports we sell, and our customers are different from the people that shop at those stores. Our customers are in the know and get it.

Overall expectations for the business over the next year?

Optimistic! I think this winter will be a good one, and I have learned from some past over-buying mistakes in the past and righted the ship when it comes to orders.

Are you altering the way you buy for the upcoming season? If so how?

We have toned down some orders to get back to comfortable levels of inventory, but that also gives us options for at-once orders and the ability to look at new companies to stay ahead of the curve and fresh.

We looked past sales and what was over-bought to ‘fix the glitch’.

Is your shop working particularly with any brands?

Nike, Burton and Volcom for sure.

Does your shop have a skate or snow team? If so who is on it/do you have any shop videos/shop recognition from competitions ect?

We do! Our site has the team page with short videos for each rider.

If you have a team are there any vets who’ve made it big and gotten big name sponsors?

No other than Transworld’s 2013 Women’s Rookie of the Year, Corinne Pasela! Get it, Corinne!

I’ve always dug the design of your shops. Do you design them yourself or have someone you work closely with in the design process?

I’ve done most of the design myself. I like a clean, simple look. Most of the display racks I’ve designed and built from ideas I’ve seen in other stores and have tried to improve on them. Originally, the store’s layout idea came from fancier boutique shops I had seen in New York and Miami. But I think we have found our own style now.

Probably the best display/rack we have is for our shoes. I hate slat wall, so we used old skate decks for shelves. It’s something that most people don’t notice at first, but when they do, it makes them smile.

Whats the reasoning behind the name ‘Martini’? Any insight?

It came from a few things. First off, I wanted a name that was easy to remember and not necessarily scream skate/snow shop – something that sounds sophisticated. I am a huge rally car fan and one of my favorite drivers was Colin McRae. So the Martini came from those ideas.

After a Google search of the word, I found it to have a cool meaning too. ‘Martini’ is also the name of an ancient Latvian festival that celebrates the coming of Winter with drinking, dancing and snow sledding. Perfect for standing sideways!

Any plans for the future? Opening up a forth shop anytime soon?

I’m always looking into it, finding the right location is always key. When and where the next shop will be I don’t know yet, but I’m not the type of guy to really ever sits still!