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Rocky Mountains

Hot/Not | What gear is trending this season at The Trailhead in Buena Vista, Colorado

Why jewelry sales struggle and brands like KAVU and Howler Bros do so well

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John Williams and Dave Blazer are the current owners of The Trailhead, which has been in Buena Vista, Colorado, since 1972.Courtesy

A dripping wet kayaker carries his neon yellow boat straight from the river. A family munches on food truck sandwiches at one of the many picnic tables. A live band performs for a crowd of energetic onlookers. It’s a normal summer day on Main Street in Buena Vista, Colorado, and The Trailhead is smack in the middle of the action.

The Trailhead‘s current owners, John Williams and Dave Blazer, bring whimsy and playfulness to their jobs. They prioritize positive interactions over “making the sale.”

“We try not to take ourselves too seriously,” said Blazer, who bought the shop in 2013 and hired Williams the next year as VP of operations.

Without a ski area nearby, they consider the shop a three-season business with snowshoe and ski rentals plus hardcore runners and mountain bikers tiding them over in the winter.

Most of their inventory is below the $250 price point, but shoppers can also find a mix of higher-end pieces like rain gear from Outdoor Research and Gore-Tex. Brands they’ve recently brought in include NEMO, Oboz, Mystery Ranch, and Rumpl.

We caught up with the duo last week for an overview on what’s moving in the store and what’s not this season.

A Howler Bros Hat in The Trailhead
Quirky prints, like this tropical pattern on a Howler Bros hat, are popular among The Trailhead’s customers.Dave Blazer

What’s hot right now?

John Williams: Eyewear as a whole category has been really good. We sell Smith, Goodr, and Optic Nerve.

There’s been a lot of growth in smaller apparel brands like Cotopaxi, Howler Bros, and Free Fly. Cotopaxi is pretty loud, but they have a cool story. Free Fly is typically really simple and doesn’t scream a brand’s name, but people are moving more towards that. They’re really technical, but can also be worn casually.

Dave Blazer: In that category, KAVU is also doing really well because they like to have fun with who they are as a brand and it resonates with what we like to help facilitate as a retail shop.

We’ve had really good success with Garmin’s inReach series, which is a higher-dollar item for us. Because of how it’s set up and how it works, people know Garmin and like what they do.

Sunglasses and jewelry displays at The Trailhead in Colorado
Goodr sunglasses are selling really well, while jewelry sometimes lacks attention.Dave Blazer

What’s not so hot?

DB: One category we’re working to improve is the smaller accessories, whether it’s women’s jewelry or the silicon wedding bands. That’s an area we grow a little bit every year.

The display is part of our conundrum. We always try to go out and find those brands that are both durable and unique, and still support the experience of what people are after when they come to Buena Vista.

Myster ranch pack and other packs at The Trailhead
Packs and other backpacking items started selling more once snow melted in Colorado.Dave Blazer

JW: Snow at higher elevations didn’t melt until three to five weeks ago, so we definitely had a late start to the selling season for all our larger backpacking packs, tents, and sleeping bags. I think that’s true industry-wide right now. But sales have picked up a ton over the last two weeks.

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