Industry Profile: Sequence Boardshop Manager Spenser Johnson
03 Jun, 2010
Job Title: “Manager” is what you might call it
Employer: Sequence Boardshop
Years on snow: About 18 sliding while standing up in some way, about 12 or so on “real” snowboards
Days on snow: Today was day 64 for the 2010 season, and still counting.
Currently Riding: Capita and Union! Indoor FK and Charlie Slasher were my favorites this year, and Forces are my go-to binding for anything.
Currently I am: Sitting in a room full of my crap, eating a Subway sandwich from earlier.
July 2009 in haines, photo by chelsey welch
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Spenser: I was born in Alaska’s capital city of Juneau twenty-one years ago, and am still living here. It’s a small town of around 30,000 people with no roads in or out… sounds weird to most, but we’re used to it, and it’s not as secluded as it sounds. In a nutshell, I just like to have a good time and enjoy life via good friends, the outdoors, my camera, music (listening and making my own), my snowboard, and anything else that might join in along the way. I’m really thankful to have grown up here, with great parents and great friends, in a gorgeous and unique part of the world.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Spenser: It’s a pretty cliche question but it’s a good one, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t done just that. Long story short – more than a lot of things, it’s what made me figure out the way I want to live. Life isn’t forever, and I’d like to enjoy it as much as I can while I’m here, without getting caught up in too many things that honestly just don’t matter when it comes down to it. I could tell you a really long story of a specific day that stands out in this respect and was the first time everything clicked, but I’ll save everyone the reading time. Some of the best times I’ve ever had have been on snow, just because of the good vibe that’s created when you’re with your friends having fun. I think (or at least hope) every snowboarder has experienced that, and that’s what it’s all about I guess. The fact that it’s snowboarding isn’t why it’s important to me, it’s the experiences, the feeling you get, the friends you have and the friends you make, and everything else that ties into life in general. It’s also lead to my current job which allows me to have a lot of freedom, and even though I’m not a professional that gets to travel all around the world, I’ve already had a lot of great experiences and opportunities that ended up happening just because I snowboard. That is crazy to me, and I hope it stays that way so I don’t take it for granted.
November 15, 2009 @ Eaglecrest (Juneau ski area), screenshot from rider cam
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Spenser: First let me say that that’s a weird question for me to think about, and I’m not really sure how to answer it. I’m not involved in the industry like someone that works for a company or anything, but I guess being part of a shop is still being involved in some way. I ended up doing what I do simply because I’ve been skateboarding and snowboarding since I was little, I knew one of the local long-time skaters in town, he started a shop in about 2004, and soon afterward, he asked if I wanted a job. If I remember correctly, it was because I had some self-taught website/design/etc skills and he wanted an employee that would bring something more to the table rather than just someone who sits in the shop and rings people up. That’s about all there is to it – and now I’m still part of the same local shop; it’s just progressed more and more over the years.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Spenser: The main thing that I was already doing before the job was all creativity-related; things like graphic design, photos, website stuff… and also just being a snowboarder and skateboarder, it definitely helps to have prior experience and knowledge. I think that’s really important and I don’t think it’s something you can “manufacture” in someone, if you will.. It’s hard to try to teach someone about it – you can’t just take a random person and expect them to “learn snowboarding,” if you know what I mean. I’m not saying I’m some kind of snowboard guru or anything, but anyone that participates in something for long enough is obviously going to have the upper hand over your average person off the street. In my experience, your average customer really doesn’t know what they want or “need” when it comes to gear, so the more you know, the better you’re able to help them, you know? That has been a big help for me with my job. And back to the creativity thing, I’ve been doing the advertising for the shop since before I officially worked there… mostly ads for events or whatever. I’ve also filmed for a lot of the events we’ve done like skate competitions, and whenever we’ve had a website, I’ve done that as well. It’s all pretty basic stuff and I have no formal training, but I have fun doing it and I guess it’s been an outlet for me to use my creativity.
Probably summer 1992 @ Mendenhall Glacier, photo by mom?
Shay: Tell us about your role at Sequence and a description of the work you do?
Spenser: I’ve been “officially” working for Sequence for a bit over four years or so, and before that I was helping out and was involved in some way, fairly close to the start from what I remember. Patrick (the owner) is a long time skateboarder who has mainly lived here and in Seattle, and he started the shop with about $1,200 and built it from the ground up, which is actually really impressive. He still owns it 100% and still works in the shop like always. I started out as a pretty normal employee, plus the work I mentioned before, with advertising and whatnot. Over the years I guess my role evolved more and more… not to toot my own horn, but I guess I’d be the second biggest part of the shop, after Patrick of course. I’m a lot more involved than I was on day one… I’m a buyer now and I deal with pretty typical manager-esque things like orders, reps, bank deposits, schedules, and pretty much anything a shop has to do – and I guess I have a lot more say in everything, or at least I’m included more… but one of the coolest things about it is that everyone is involved beyond a typical employee’s role. We don’t section off people’s roles very much. It’s a small local shop and each person is important… and when I say each person, I’m only talking about three or four people at a time, maybe five sometimes. Patrick, myself, and we usually have one or two more employees. It’s a small operation and it’s pretty much a non profit and we definitely aren’t remotely rich at all; all the money goes back into the shop and the skate/snow scene in Juneau. More products and more variety, remodels, events, etc. A local shop can be extremely important to the sport in their town.
November 15, 2009 @ Eaglecrest (Juneau ski area), self photo
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Spenser: Show up a few minutes early (or sometimes a few late if my alarm isn’t enough to get me out of bed), drop off my bag, head over to the store, grab something to eat, turn on my laptop, turn on some music, get the bank deposit from yesterday ready, clean anything up that was left out from the night before, and go from there. Some days are pretty dead and others might be pretty busy, so we just go along with whatever happens. One day I might have almost nothing to do and to be totally honest, the majority of my time could be spent sitting on my computer, bored and alone. And the next day, we could get in five huge pallets of snowboard gear (in the fall of course) and I’ll spend all day unpacking, putting products in the computer, and then putting them out on the sales floor. We also change up the shop pretty regularly, so it’s not too uncommon for us to get a group of friends together to help build something like new counters, change the floor layout, move a wall around, or whatever. It varies all the time and that’s one of the things I like most about it; it’s not the same routine every single day, and I’m glad, cause I might go crazy if it was. It’s also cool that it’s such a relaxed job. People can come to the shop and hang out, so I get to see my friends at work if they stop by, or meet new people. Making friends with customers is awesome. Every shop has their regulars, and in a small town a much bigger percent of your customers are regulars, so it’s cool seeing familiar people every day.
March 7, 2009 @ Dan Moller backcountry in Juneau with Cassandra Otnes, camera timer photo by me
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Spenser: As far as the shop goes, the first things that came to mind all happened in the last few months. We didn’t have a security system until early this year, and since then we have caught a bunch of people stealing… kinda scary to think about how often it happened before when we weren’t able to catch it nearly as easily. It’s exciting catching them… my heart always beats really fast because of how stoked (and anxious) I am to bust someone. Sometimes it’s pretty sad though. Recently a younger woman came in and was stuffing things in her purse the whole time, while her daughter who couldn’t have been more than three years old was by her side and playing around the shop. I had to confront her as her daughter ran up to her side looking up at her mom and me, hopefully oblivious to what was going on. Also, one time I was taking my dog for a walk and stopped by the shop so he could meet one of our employees who is a fellow dog lover, and he took a huge diarrhea shit on the floor cause hes going on 100 in dog years, and you know how old bowels can get. It was one of the worst smells I could have imagined, and I’ve never scrambled so fast to clean something up in my life. Besides that, our bigger remodels have always been fun. Get some friends who are stoked to volunteer their time to help out, put on some music, order pizza, and hang out through the middle of the night building and having fun. Another memory that’s pretty recent is when Patrick took me down to Seattle to the Burton showroom to see all their 2011 gear – meaning Burton, Anon, Analog, Red, Gravis, Forum, Special Blend, Foursquare, etc – every piece in every color… and for free! I’m not used to that and I’m really glad I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity like that, even if it’s not a big deal to some people. Patrick has been working at Alaska Airlines on the side for about a decade so his flight benefits help a lot for travel. Anyway, it was awesome to hang out with our reps like Dustin Anderson who I’ve known for about four years now, and to meet new ones (new to me) like Colleen Farrel, Brandon Richards, Clif Reagle, and go to lunch with them and hang. We also met up with our Sole Tech, Technine, and Nomis rep – Matt Roder – who Patrick has been friends with for years. Super cool guy! We’d skate through downtown Seattle at night and up to Capitol Hill, grab some amazing pizza from Paggliacci’s or burgers at Dick’s, and have an all around great time. On the same trip, I almost went up to Baker to the Banked Slalom with Dustin and the other Burton dudes, and I kinda wish I had, but Patrick was planning to stay down there longer and then head elsewhere, so I needed to go back to Juneau to hold down the shop. Would have been awesome though… maybe next time. And I can’t forget Johan and the guys at C3 like Kyle, Matt, and my friend Scotty who is from Juneau, and the founder Blue of course. Without getting too into it, lets just say they’re awesome guys who have been a great example of the good people that help this industry tick and I’m glad to have met them. They do great work and are honest snowboarders doing their thing, and they’re a reminder to me that there are still good people out there… which is great, cause… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people seem to be getting worse and worse. Or maybe it was always this way and it’s just a part of growing up and seeing more of what’s out there, especially coming from a small town – but those can be even worse, and Juneau has been turning into a bit of a cesspool in the past few years. Pretty sad. Anyway, good people are always important. I like good people, don’t you?
September 2009 @ Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, photo by Cassandra Otnes
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Spenser: This question has been getting a lot of heat lately, with a lot of changes going on in the way business is done in the industry. I’m not really sure how to touch on this one, because there are so many factors and so many ways to look at it. I think one of the main issues is one that’s hurting the meat and heart of the industry’s sales which is local shops in my opinion – the shop you know, that hopefully is involved in the scene in your area – versus online sales and the huge discounts that have been going on. Discounts are great for obvious reasons, but it quite honestly bums me out to see all these people growing into the sport with this being the norm. The novelty that was a snowboard is being lost, and it’s now just another “thing.” When a lot of us were getting into it, your local shop was the place to be, and you saved up for your new gear… nothing was as exciting as getting that crisp new board, or jacket, or whatever, and I feel like that excitement has been lost on a pretty significant scale because of how easy it is to get a board now. It’s also a trade off. You can say the prices are great because it allows more people to afford it and get into it, and that’s true that that’s great, but on the flip side, it makes it really tough for that local shop to do what it’s always done, and that’s a very important part of the puzzle if you ask me. It’s not just about a place to buy gear; not at all. I don’t want snowboarding to be come impersonal, you know? I could go on for a long time about that, but I won’t… err…. I’ll try not to. Anyway, another issue I see is just over-saturation. There are more brands than ever, producing more boards than ever (probably – I don’t have any figures on that), so shops and even the companies themselves are stuck sitting on a ton of product, and it makes everything more difficult. It seems like it’s been getting out of hand, but I have noticed a few brands doing certain things to protect themselves in certain ways, and I think it’s good for the industry over all, even if it means you can’t get that brand X snowboard for 70% off anymore. I also wish more people could see it from all perspectives. All most people have is the view from a customer’s spot… which is fine, but when you understand things from the other side, you might appreciate discounts and products a lot more than you can without that perspective, instead of having a bunch of kids getting 70% off and begging for more. That still blows my mind… it’s so different from the way it used to be. Different times, I guess. Or, who knows, maybe I’m just talking out my ass, right?
May 8, 2010 near Sunshine Cove near Juneau, camera timer photo by me
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Spenser: I think they’re both important, and I think they go hand in hand in a lot of ways. If I had to pick, I’d say “education through experience.”
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Spenser: Not really sure. Like I said earlier, I’m really not involved in it like a lot of people are – I don’t work for a company or anything. However, I’d say it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. It can be pretty tough to get exactly where you want to be, cause you can get thrown in a totally different direction fairly easily. I’m sure a lot of people are doing things they hadn’t initially planned or focused on. Maybe they wanted to build snowboards for a company, but ended up being a rep instead, or something like that. Also, don’t think that just because it’s snowboarding it’s going to be fun and easy all the time. Sure, it’s gonna be better than some office job you don’t care about, but it’s still work. Reps are one example. Of course it’s cool to represent a company, especially if you really stand behind what they do, but dealing with shops and people and deadlines and all of that can take a pretty big toll on you, and there are so many negative people out there who just want to be “haters” and make your job harder than it needs to be. I’ve seen reps break down before from the stress, and sadly it’s kinda ruined their own love for the sport (or whatever you like to call it) that they had when they started. An analogy I’ve used before is myself and little league baseball. I always loved baseball when I was little… always loved playing catch with my dad, hitting the ball around, and having fun… but when little league came around and I had schedules and uniforms and had to play certain positions and do certain things at certain times, I found myself not wanting to play anymore at all. I hope that never happens with snowboarding.