This is a great story about an extreme sports shop called W82 in Chicago that could do some magic in the next few years.
It’s a bit of a departure from our usual adrenaline fix for the week. But I am an absolutely HUGE fan of a small business-themed TV show on CNBC, called The Profit. The gist of the show: a serial entrepreneur named Marcus Lemonis buys struggling businesses and invests his cash and expertise to give it some life.
His recent purchase of the iconic-but-floundering Windward Board Shop highlights, in my opinion, the fascinating convergence of business and extreme sports.
We’ve yet to see a truly poly extreme athlete retailer across the country. Could W82 be that brand? I’m excited to watch.
Windward Boardshop Was In Trouble
Founded in 1982, Chicagoland’s Original Boardshop was a popular outlet in Chicago for folks to stock up on extreme sports equipment. They were a board shop, serving primarily skateboards, snowboards and paddle boards and related equipment.
In 2010, three snowboarders bought the business and changed the name to Windward Boardshop. The business did well, and the partners opened a second, much bigger location in affluent Highland Park. The only problem with that? The demographics were off. Highland Park has a higher average resident age than their downtown location. Windward Boardshop at Highland Park got little traffic and quickly bled money.
There were other issues. The business was limited primarily to skateboards, snowboards and paddle boards. Much of the inventory didn’t move, in part because the gear they purchased for resale did not resonate with their customers.
Bleeding cash, and with limited offerings, Windward Boardshop was in trouble – until appearing on The Profit in June 2017.
W82: An Extreme Sports Authority?
Marcus Lemonis will tear a business down to the studs if it’s not working. He did something similar with Windward Boardshop – after analyzing the situation, he bought 40% of the business and closed the Highland Park location.
As well, the staff liquidated stagnant inventory from the latter and brought in close to $250,000. That money, along with Lemonis’s cash infusion, helped expand the location in downtown Chicago and broaden their product selection.
They brought in activewear, more swimwear, footwear and drones, among others.
They changed the name too, from Windward Boardshop to W82 (W for ‘Windward’ and 82 for the year the business was created).
I’m interested to see how this works out. Lemonis likes to scale businesses nationwide where applicable. I’ve been watching The Profit since Season 1 back in July 2013 (and been a perpetual thorn in his side each week on Twitter, right Marcus ? ;). I like where W82 is going with the new products. My own two cents? Right now they’re selling other brands, and the store looks great – but they’ll want to put time and passion into making a house brand, above others.
And, of course, to avoid selling out.
But the passion is there. You can tell the staff live for board sports and were hesitant to sell what they thought was the ‘soul’ of the shop. I’ll be interested to see how (and where) W82 turns out in a few years, and if they can become a respected force in the extreme sports community.
W82 is at www.w82.com.