30 years in snow biz
Thirty years ago, Dave Wilderotter opened Tahoe Dave’s ski and snowboard shop, a small-scale ski rental at the time, because he needed a job.
Wilderotter said he originally applied for a bartending position at the Tahoe City restaurant Jake’s on the Lake ” but they didn’t hire him.
“It’s funny,” Wilderotter said. “If they would’ve hired me, I wouldn’t have opened the ski shop.”
Another chapter in the evolution of skiing and snowboarding and four shops later Dave’s is arguably one of the Tahoe Truckee area’s iconic landmarks.
And the journey’s been good.
Wilderotter, and his shop, have been “riding the wave” of the ski and snowboard evolution, from the “freewheeling heyday in the seventies and eighties” to the industry it is today, which, Wilderotter mused, may be the era of American skiing.
The equipment, snow-making technology, grooming, park terrain and such ground-breaking professional athletes, and Tahoe locals, as Julia Mancuso and Marco Sullivan are all signs that the snow industry is consistently reaching new heights, Wilderotter said.
“So when is the heyday for American skiing?” he asked. “It might be now.”
The very first Dave’s rental shop opened in the Henrikson building in Tahoe City. Wilderotter bought 30 pairs of second-hand skis for a couple of thousand dollars to
rent to customers.
“We were lucky,” Wilderotter said. “It was a good year the first year.”
Dave’s has come a long way since 30 pairs of rental skis. And a key part of the shops’ business plan is Wilderotter’s respect for his employees.
“His enthusiasm and his passion carries through to his entire staff,” said Executive Director Kelly Atchley, who works at the Tahoe City Downtown Association with Wilderotter, the business group’s board president.
In the early eighties, it was one of Dave’s employees who suggested the store carry snurfers, the first snowboard model that was attached with a string in front.
“Whatever our employees are into,” Wilderotter said. “And they have drive and motivation ” let them go.”
Wilderotter, a skier, said he didn’t know whether to order one or the discounted five snurfers, but the business move was a good one. A few years later they opened the “shred shed” and Dave’s snowboard shop was officially a player in the snowboard revolution.
“It was more of a cult back then,” Wilderotter said, remembering the many passionate riders who built snowboards in their basement. “It was a lot smaller and not as corporate.”
Wilderotter’s enthusiasm goes beyond his employees. It spills over to the specialized attention he gives his customers and to his active participation in the local communities.
“That’s a sign of a well-made business,” Atchley said. “Dave pays close attention to what’s going on around him, and what people are interested in having.”
Wilderotter credits the success of his business to his employees. His business partner Marina Marenco is the backbone to the stores’ inner workings, he said.
“She does everything. She runs the show,” said Wilderotter, noting that she was the one who convinced him to bring in cash registers.
But there’s something to be said of Wilderotter’s commitment to and passion for the industry.
“Coming to work is not like work,” he said. “It’s a social event … and I still like to ski. There’s nothing else that makes as much sense as skiing.”
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