I might not be cool enough to be here.

You don’t have to know anything about board sports to be impressed by the volume and variety on display at The Boarding House. The clothes, shoes and other apparel are brands popular with this sporting community and there are even a few I recognize. All of this combines to leave me with the distinct impression that I might not be cool enough for this store.

So why am I here? I’m here because I’m going to sit down with Scott Dent, the store’s owner. I want to find out how with the pull of online shopping and the store’s specialized focus, it has remained one of Medicine Hat’s most resilient household names in all things board sports.

When I enter the store Scott is helping out one of his customers so I take the opportunity to have a wander around. It was at this point, I think, that the feeling of being ‘out of place’ may have started to set in, it does reek of cool in here. Please don’t misunderstand me, the staff went out of their way to make me welcome, offering to help me navigate this unfamiliar world several times. looking back, that should have been my first sign that I was getting the vibe of The Boarding House all wrong.

Cowboys and board shorts

I drift back to the front of the store as Scott is waving his customer out. I notice that the gentleman he’s been attending too is a tall lean Cowboy with his two small kids. The Cowboy seems a similar age to me and far from standing out here, he seems perfectly at home amongst the Oakely, Santa Cruz, and Vans. I’m starting to feel that I may have miss judged the place. Later Scott will explain how the store and its contents changed over the years to meet the needs of his customers as they have grown and evolved

‘Our business model has changed. We started as a pretty hardcore skate shop but as we’ve grown over the years and our customers have grown too. We’ve switched our focus now from not just the kids but to the kids, their parents and anybody else too.’ Says Scott

The right advice at the right time.

The Boarding House started its life on Kingway Avenue in 1995 as an extension of Sports Connection. Scott’s obvious passion for ‘Boarding’ and his experience in its retail sector made him the right choice to run the store and it was a short two years before he was invited to become the owner. When pressed to pinpoint how he was able to make the transition from ‘Rider’ to owner he humbly attributes it to the support of Sports Connection and its owners.

The guys I started the store with have always been there as mentors for me and I still talk to them now. I learnt a lot working for Doug and Ryan and paid a lot of attention to what they had to say to me.’

Scott went on to say that he’d been mentored in the hard work that went into running a business from as early as eighteen. When it came time to running and then owning The Boarding House he knew all too well that a passion for the sport would only get the business so far. A firm grasp of business would be what was needed to see the store succeed.

Positive impact and Riding skill.

If you are in any way aware of The Boarding House then you will know the impact the store has in championing Skateboarding. Whether it is the construction of a skate park, lessons, promoting competitions or even sponsoring up and coming riders, you can count on reading that The Boarding House is involved. I was curious as to what it takes to become one of The Boarding House’s sponsored riders.

‘We’ve really switched our focus from looking for someone who’s a really good rider to more of a good brand ambassador. We’re looking for someone who’s able to really represent our store.’ ‘It’s not so much your riding ability as can you positively influence other people in board sports.’ ‘Some times you can be a really skilled border but not very good at representing The Boarding House and the sport its self.’

There will be skis!

After sitting down with Scott it was abundantly clear that my initial impression could not have been more wrong. Far from The Boarding House being some sort of elitist Skateboarding gatekeeper, I have discovered a mature sporting ambassador. I am excited to return one day soon as a customer and even more excited that skis will be added to the racks this winter. The Boarding House had been a part of the hugely successful Canadian Ski Patrol Ski Swap last year. Scott told me he is excited to participate in it again this year and I’m looking forward to seeing the store represented there too.

It was an interesting conversation and I was very happy to have my initial impression debunked. The Boarding House is a strong brand with deep local roots and at a time when it’s important to consider where our dollars end up, I can see some good reasons for a few of them to end up here. Whether it’s a new look, a new sport, or resurrecting some old riding skills, I strongly encourage you to head to The Boarding House.