In 1954, Harry Larned opened the Sports Creel snow ski shop on East Sprague in Spokane. He had a passion for the outdoors and a dream to connect his large family, his friends and his time with getting outside and adventuring in the mountains. Today, 67 years and three generations later, Micah Genteman is continuing his grandfather's good work at what is now the oldest specialty ski shop in Spokane.
"We're just a goofy little old-school, family-run ski shop, and we'll literally work ourselves to the bone to make sure our customers stay happy," says Micah, who has run the shop with his wife, TJ, and a "spectacular rotating cast of crew" for several decades.
Technically speaking, they're an old-school snow ski shop that specializes in boot fitting; they do not sell snowboarding gear. They sell a variety of ski brands, helmets, goggles, boots and some clothing. They don't have an e-commerce site, so you have to come see them face-to-face to experience their services. They also have a trade-in program that started with trying to keep kids involved in skiing year after year while also alleviating some of the cost for mom and dad when the kids quickly grew out of gear. They sell used gear and new gear, then as your kids outgrow their gear, the Creel allows you to trade it in toward bigger gear.
This past year, they had a revelation that has led to some small changes in the shop. "There are a lot of people who are perfectly willing and able to go and buy things online that don't require our help or our services or our thoughts and feelings on it," says Micah. "But we do have people who drive here from a long ways away for us to work on their boots." In a team meeting, one of the crew mentioned that nobody drove a long way to come and find out what kind of clothing the Creel sold, and that statement brought a new perspective to what the shop has to bring to the community. "We're going to focus on the stuff that very few people can offer but we do well," Micah adds. With that in mind, they have increased their service area for ski boot fitting and decreased the floor space for outerwear, soft goods and other clothing. The change has been good.
Over the years, it's become tradition for customers to introduce their own kids and grandkids to their family at the Creel. These customers and friends fondly call themselves "Creelers." Says Micah, "We get to ride on the coattails of the people who came in and did all the hard work before us in developing such great, loyal, long-lasting relationships with our customers. We feel really, really, really blessed to get to do what we love."
2nd PLACE: Shred Sports Outlet; 3rd PLACE: Spokane Alpine Haus; NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: Ski Shack, Hayden