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SNEWS QS: Gary Neptune, Neptune Mountaineering

Backwoods recently announced it acquired Boulder, Colo.-based Neptune Mountaineering for an undisclosed amount. SNEWS recently chatted with Neptune's Founder Gary Neptune about the deal.

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Gary Neptune


Neptune Mountaineering, Boulder, Colo.

Austin, Texas-based Backwoods acquired Boulder, Colo.-based Neptune Mountaineering on Dec. 31 for an undisclosed amount.

Neptune Founder Gary Neptune will remain on staff to help with the transition. Neptune recently chatted with SNEWS about the sale.

Both family-owned companies originally opened in 1973.

What is the significance of the sale on the business?

We’ll see. For me it’s a step in the direction of eventually being retired. As you know from the release, I’m keeping the museum and I’m still working here doing a lot of the things — especially during a transition period — but surely they won’t need me anymore at some point. I’m looking forward to a lot of fun and a lot of work. Backwoods will be able to bring a lot of things to this store that we could never do as a single store. They’re going to be able to improve a lot of things we haven’t been able to do very well.

What kinds of things will they be able to do that you couldn’t?

For instance, they do Internet retailing. You can do that when you have multiple stores, but single shops almost can’t do it. It’s really, really tough and drains a huge amount of energy and money — a lot of stores have tried it and given up after they realized that. That’s an obvious one. Exactly how they use our store versus what they’ve already got going? [You’d have to] talk to them about the future there. … They will have the ability to do what buying groups do. They have nine stores now, and that’s a certain economy of scale.

What will happen with the current staff at Neptune Mountaineering?

They will remain on. Inevitably staff will change because there’s a lot of turnover with young people who are in school. Plus, some people are going to like the new roles they’re being given and will be able to do a better job and get better training.

How long has this deal been in the works? 

Two different answers: Some years ago I’d promised my wife by the time I was 70 I’d have sold the store or have it in the works or something, because we’ve got to have a few good years together. I began telling anybody who wanted to know, “Sure, I’m always for sale,” but I hadn’t taken any structured steps in that direction.

Then we finally started getting more serious about it recently. As far as Backwoods goes, it’s just a stroke of luck that we connected. They were beginning to look at expanding in the Rockies, and we were getting serious about selling the business in some fashion. This just ended up seeming like a really excellent fit.

What drew you to Backwoods?

They have a great reputation in the industry. Since we announced the sale, all kinds of people have talked to me and I’ve heard nothing but good about them. I think they’re great people, they drive a good hard bargain because they’re business people, but they’re also very human. I like the fact that it’s a family-owned business.

Another thing that can tie in well with this business is their adventure travel division. That’s one of those many things that I thought about doing for years — but, again, it’s a whole other business and I didn’t have the resources to do it.

How will the store change?

Staff will be able to do a better job because they’ll be given the tools that will help them. I think it will be a good thing for everybody — consumers and everybody in the loop.

What are you most looking forward to about retirement?

I’m not even thinking that far ahead. It’s going to be a while. Like I said, I’ve still got the museum here and they want me to help out with the slide shows and the promotional things, possibly some training with other stores. There’s a whole string of things like that that I’m still going to be doing. It will be a bit of an evolutionary process to see where I best fit in and where I don’t want to interfere.

What kind of changes does this mean for your long-time customers?

I don’t think it means a whole lot of change. They’ll still be getting what they always came here to get. They’ll see improvement, if anything. There will be more accurate stocking and goods and more sophisticated training of staff in terms of merchandising. Those are things I’ve wanted to do better and improve over the years, but never to the degree I’d have liked to. These are all subtle changes that will happen slowly. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of customers are going to realize it happened. 

–Compiled by Ana Trujillo