After nearly 20 years in one location and 44 years in one town, the decision to move Omer & Bob’s Sportshop to a new location in a new town wasn’t an easy one. However, the ski, bike, and tennis sports specialty store had grown to the point where the wares of every season and sport seemed to battle with the next for space. “One customer described going to the old Omer & Bob’s like going to a rummage sale,” said Omer & Bob’s owner Richard Wallace. “You knew there was good stuff there, but it wasn’t very easy to find any one thing and you had to dig to get what you wanted.”
It might not have been that bad, but after six months in a new location Wallace and his staff know that the experience of coming to the shop is much better for all their customers. In the fall of 2008, with help from Trumbull-Nelson, Omer & Bob’s charged full speed ahead into the transition from Hanover to Lebanon, New Hampshire. Now with a location downtown on the revitalized “Mall,” the early returns couldn’t be much better.
“Tony (from TN)
was great. He kept a close eye on everything and made sure we were happy with the details.”
“We really appreciate that we’ve acquired a lot of new customers and that our loyal customers have followed us here,” said Wallace, contemplating the impacts of the change. Nevertheless it was a very significant transition for the business with deep roots. The shop was originally started by Omer Lacasse and Bob Courtemarche in 1964. Both were veterans of the local ski retail market, and wanted to break out on their own. The owners built an extremely loyal following. In 1991 the shop moved from a 1,400-square-foot space in the Nugget Arcade to a 3,400-square-foot space on Allen Street, but the business kept expanding with soft goods and equipment fighting for space on the sales floor. At the time Wallace bought the shop from Courtemarche in 1986 there were still four other shops in Hanover selling ski equipment. When Omer & Bob’s left, it was the last.
Before he bought Omer & Bob’s, Richard Wallace had been a teacher, counselor, and school administrator, but he didn’t have any specific background as a sports retailer. “I’d grown up as a skier, and I played tennis,” said Wallace. “As a teacher, having summers off I had ridden my bike a ton, all over Vermont, and up to the Adirondacks. So I thought I knew something about skiing, biking, and tennis.”
While he had a lot to learn about the ins and outs of running a store, his skills as a teacher and counselor helped him tremendously in cultivating and maintaining a skilled and loyal staff. When asked how many people work at Omer & Bob’s now, Wallace says the names out loud and counts them one-by-one on his fingers to reach 13 full-time and 2 part-timers. Today the staff is a close knit group, and it’s clear to anyone who walks in the door that they know and love the sports as much as their customers. They are also enjoying the opportunity to have more space to work in, to do their jobs well.
“Omer & Bob’s
is taking full
advantage of the
new location and
the opportunities it brings.”
Wallace turned to the firm of Haynes & Garthwaite Architects to design the renovation, and is thrilled with the results. The new space is filled with light, feeling open and inviting. They maintained the character of the building by exposing the brick walls the shop now uses to display a broader range of soft goods and equipment. When it came to bringing the design vision to life the key was finding a contractor they could trust, who understood what was vital to keep the business firing on all cylinders. A Trumbull-Nelson team lead by Tony Instasi made sure everything came together just right. “Tony was great,” said Wallace. “He kept a close eye on everything and made sure we were happy with the details. It was extremely important that we be set up on time for the kid’s ski rental business.
Omer & Bob’s is taking full advantage of the new location and the opportunities it brings. The move gives the store significantly more retail space, but even more importantly, the new Omer and Bob’s has more storage space, double the back shop area, and convenient parking. According to Wallace, parking was one of the biggest challenges at the old location, and when paired with lack of storage space there, things got even worse, “People would fight to find a parking space, bring their bikes in for repair, and we’d have to say we didn’t have any place to store them.”
Omer & Bob’s have more capacity to show, sell, and service bikes as cycling in the Upper Valley seems to be at a new peak.
When it came to storage, much of it had to be offsite. Wallace stored the majority of the kids’ rental ski equipment in his garage. Then once that was emptied out he would fill it with up to 150 bikes in anticipation of spring.
The biggest challenge frequently came in the shoulder seasons when people would transition from biking to skiing or vice-versa. With retail space and back shop space at a premium, Omer & Bob’s could never satisfy the needs of both groups of consumers. This past winter was the first time the shop was able to have a significant bike display at the end of the winter, and as a result sales in all their bike categories were up in February and March. From there, momentum carried into the spring—in May the shop sold the most bikes they have ever sold in a single month.
It’s a great time for Omer & Bob’s to have more capacity to show, sell, and service bikes as cycling in the Upper Valley seems to be at a new peak. “
And with the space to dedicate to gear for all their sports, Omer & Bob’s is ready to serve each of their customers, in every season.