Business Beat, By Aaron Orlando
It’s early Tuesday evening and a whole mess of boys, a bunch of dads and a couple of moms head out in a mountain bike convoy up Mackenzie Avenue. They’re heading out to the trails as part of the junior ride program hosted by Skookum Cycle & Ski. They’re accompanied by a certified mountain bike coach as part of a new program offered through the Grizzly Plaza bike and ski store.
It’s one of several new initiatives brought online by new owner Mike Gravelle, part of an overall effort to bolster customer service and “stay community focused.”
Gravelle served as manager of the store last year before buying into an ownership stake with partners based at their Salmon Arm store.
While working as a manager, Gravelle realized his big challenge was fairly clear-cut: the shop didn’t have a great reputation for customer service. If you didn’t fit the part of the hardcore downhill biker or skier, maybe you weren’t taken as seriously as other customers. There were complaints.
Gravelle said he took those complaints to heart and he set to work, hiring (and firing) staff. The emphasis was on creating a positive experience. “As long as they had good customer service,” Gravelle says. “I did the hiring and they did the rest.”
He kept on Adam Jarvis, certified technician and tech shop manager, who’s been with Revelstoke Skookum since the start, saying Jarvis has been a key player on the team.
Gravelle is originally from Ontario, where he was involved in coaching sports like volleyball, hockey, tennis and basketball. He’s also a certified bike instructor.
He relocated to Whistler where he worked in sales for 15 years at a privately-owned sporting goods company there. He’s also done some time as a landscaper and irrigation tech.
“We wanted to get away from the coast,” he tells me of his move to Revelstoke. It was time to settle down. Mike and his wife Cassandra had their first daughter Kate almost two months ago.
He was looking around for an opportunity and met Skookum owners Tom Peasgood and Greg Scharf, who are based in Salmon Arm. Gravelle decided to buy in and take over operations in Revelstoke.
“This is going to be what I’m going to do for the rest of my life,” Gravelle tells me. Since then he’s been putting in long hours to get the operation focused on the community. “I’m strictly Revelstoke; this is my store.”
The junior rides are one program. Another initiative is run-bike groups for very small children. He’s also instituted a buy-back program for youths where they can trade in their bikes or skis at the end of the season.
Gravelle is bullish about the future of biking in Revelstoke. He notes many of the recent trail additions and more to come. What’s more, the word is getting out more and more; locals and visitors alike are getting more and more into it.
“Bike tourism is going to double in the next two years,” Gravelle says confidently. “Mountain biking is a sport that has grown and is continuing to grow.” Revelstoke is making significant gains in all kinds of biking amenities, from gravity to cross country.
Skookum has organized the Stoked to Get Spanked and the Town Crit races before, and Gravelle says he’s working with several other businesses in town to further develop a week-long (or longer) summer bike festival in Revelstoke, starting this year. A lot of things are up in the air, and Gravelle emphasizes it’s a partnership. He didn’t want to appear to be taking the credit, but said everyone’s excited about the possibility to grow the scene. “Everybody [involved] has great ideas.”