WHITEFISH – It’s barely the middle of October, but the feeling is here, a subtle buzz floating through the air, the undercurrent of expectation akin to a kid on Christmas morning or the last day of work before a vacation.
Ski and snowboarding season is just a few snowfalls away. Early sales for season passes for Whitefish Mountain Resort are done, and the snow-bound athletes are prepping their quads for another winter of gliding, sliding, cutting, and carving.
And for the last decade, owner Timmy Thomas and the crew at the White Room Mountain Shop have provided the gear and know-how necessary for navigating Northwest Montana’s trails and ski runs.
It’s been 10 years of learning lessons and growing to become a piece of the ski culture here, and now the White Room is part of another important area of Whitefish: the retail heart of the city.
As of Sept. 30, the White Room’s new location on Central Avenue has been open, though the shop is still in transition from its original location on Lupfer Avenue. Thomas said it’s only a couple of blocks difference, but it might as well have been 100 miles.
“No question, in Whitefish, if you’re in retail, you have to be on Central Avenue, if not a half block from it,” Thomas said.
Moving the ski shop to one of the main thoroughfares in town has already had an impact on the White Room’s presence in the community. At night, when Thomas is working to get the new space in order, passersby are already tapping on the window, and just sitting outside the new space – connected to Amazing Crepes and neighboring the Red Caboose – one can hear conversation from window shoppers about the new spot.
The new location offers Thomas and his crew not only a chance to bring in more customers due to the foot traffic along Central Avenue, but also to become one of the headquarters of ski culture in a ski town.
Though the space is barely stocked – Thomas estimated on Oct. 9 that he had about 5 percent of his total merchandise inside, and expected to be fully up and moving in about a month – Thomas already has big plans.
“It’s not only a retail space, it’s an experience,” Thomas said.
He redesigned the interior of the building space, creating more of a separation between his shop and the creperie, though there is still a door in the wall between them allowing for customers in both businesses to flow between them.
Thomas is also in contact with the Stumptown Historical Society to potentially showcase pieces of Whitefish’s ski history in his shop; he has collected classic skis for years, which will help with decorating the space, and the shop also used original decking from the Whitefish train depot to build countertops.
The idea is to be that one, local ski shop you can always find in ski towns, Thomas said, the place that gives an idea of what it means to be in Whitefish, of what skiing and the outdoors mean to a place like this.
“It all goes back to it’s more than just retail,” Thomas said.
Inside, the White Room’s new location is a bit more snug than the last, but it will actually provide better services, he said, because there are three ski benches for tuning and tech work compared to just one at the Lupfer store.
Thomas hopes to add a new aspect called the Skier’s Easel, where athletes who are also artists can showcase there work, and the White Room can participate in downtown Whitefish events like art walks.
The official 10-year anniversary celebration will happen some time in November, and the White Room also plans on presenting ski movies.
It’s a big change, but Thomas is confident it’s the right one for his business. Plenty has changed in the last 10 years anyway, and Thomas sees only potential, like a skier who managed to catch the first lift of the day sees only fresh snow in which to make his mark.
“It’s going to become something very special that I feel the town of Whitefish deserves,” Thomas said.
The White Room Mountain Shop is located at 119 Central Ave. For more information, visit www.whiteroomshop.com.
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