Recreation retailer Alpin Haus will expand its Route 30 location as it looks to meet increased demand that intensified during and after the COVID pandemic.
“We’ve had such demand over the years and it’s just growing between here and the history of Clifton Park and everything we’re doing in the Capital Region,” said company President Andy Heck. “We’re on a growth trajectory and the pandemic just took it to a whole other level.
Recreation was one of the winners because they could do things outside safely with their families, there weren’t many vacation options.”
To meet the need, the company is expanding its Amsterdam location by 15,000 square meters.
Heck said the company owns the plaza in which it is located and had operated a health club near the company’s store on Route 30 in Amsterdam, but decided to close it in order to provide more space for the retail store.
Alpin Haus, a family-owned business, was started by Bud Heck in 1964 with John Daly. Daly sold his interests in the company to Andy and Greg Heck in 1994. The company began as a ski equipment retailer, but naturally has grown over the years to include other recreational options, including RVs, snowmobiles, boats and swimming pools. , said Andy Heck.
The company also will build a new store on Route 86 in Wallkill, a town in Orange County.
“It’s been in the works for a while, but we just broke ground this week,” Heck said Wednesday.
He said it will replace the Port Jervis store, which the company has outgrown.
Much of the increase is due to people wanting to go camping, buy pools and RVs or take up skiing and other outdoor sports during COVID because school sports programs were closed and people couldn’t travel for one time.
While school sports teams are playing again and travel is back, people still want to enjoy camping, their pools, and hobbies like skiing that they picked up during the pandemic.
“Every year we’ve grown somewhat, but suddenly we saw that there was a whole new enthusiasm for people who were out in every aspect,” Heck said.
Heck said he believes the family-oriented approach to the business is what has helped it continue to grow over the years and gain recognition in the recreational industry.
“We focus a lot on that,” he said. “I think we accept that [more] probably than some other businesses that do what we do because it’s very important to us,” he said.
Heck said almost everyone in his family has some sort of recreational hobby, including skiing.
“We have our family ski days and things like that,” he said.
The company has six locations between the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and New Jersey.
The company was recently named an RVBusinessmagazine Top 50 Blue Ribbon Vendor and has been recognized in the past, including being named Snow Sports Retailer of the Year; National High Quality RV Dealer of the Year; Ski-Doo District Dealer of the Year; and has been selected several times as one of the best places to work by the Capital District Business Review, according to an advance press release from the company.
“It feels really good and gratifying, especially for our team that has worked so hard for the last two years,” he said. “Like everyone, we’ve done well with staffing, but we’re a little understaffed, but not terribly so. So everyone has had to work harder and I think it’s a little feather in the cap to be recognized by our industries and by our peers.”
The company employs about 200 people.
Heck said he, like many other companies, is watching to see how the current economic climate will play out and the impact it could have on the business.
“We’re concerned like everybody else because we’re consumer discretionary, so that’s one of the things that people are going to cut back on is what we sell when times are more challenging, so we’re definitely looking at that. At the same time we know that if we’re talking about the economy, people have jobs, so that’s what changes in this economic cycle. Americans like to relax, they like to do things, so we think business will be good, but we just don’t know.”
Heck also said you have to consider the fact that many people took up outdoor hobbies they don’t want to give up.
“Whether it’s people who would be considered white-collar or blue-collar, we’ve seen that everybody wants to be outside,” he said.
Heck said they have actually started selling ice skates since some municipalities offer skating rinks to the public.
He said that while they are expanding, they still face challenges with supply meeting 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 at times we didn’t know when we were going to get things or if we were going to get things at all,” he said.
He said that going into this winter it has been better, but there are some things that are still hard to get.
“Because a lot of what we do is worldwide, on the ski business side, we’re not going to get some junior ski boots this year — they didn’t build them for America,” he said. “We’re not going to get some skis because they didn’t build enough for the world.”
Heck said they work with customers to find other options.
Although there were challenges, there were also surprises, such as older adults returning to skiing, Heck said.
“People even in their 50s and 60s are taking up skiing again,” he said. “That’s been kind of exciting.”
He said many people have come in giddy and giddy like a child excited to get back into something they did growing up.
“Or they’re doing it for their kids or their grandkids and that’s a good thing,” Heck said.
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