It is with great sadness that we announce the permanent closing of Ski Center. We tried very hard to find a buyer who had the experience, resources and values necessary to continue the business. We talked with many other ski shops as well as a number of local entrepreneurs and former employees. Our negotiations were not successful and our lease has run out.
All small businesses are under tremendous pressure to survive. Ours was facing challenges on lots of fronts, many from forces beyond our control. The property was sold to a publicly traded company in October, 2014, and our property taxes have gone from $33,000 to $76,000 this year, and are projected to be $90,000 or more next year. This is on top of a $50,000 increase in our minimum rent 3 years ago. There will be a year of construction disruption as a new building is constructed on our parking lot, blocking visibility and making the parking situation less convenient. Our lease expired May 31, and we were not comfortable signing a new, long-term one. There would be too great of chance of us having to work just to pay the landlord, or ending the business in bankruptcy. Other locations are also very expensive, lack easy, ample parking, would require a large investment to build out, and could take several years to rebuild the business, if ever. Widespread adoption of newer generation smartphones makes it easy for customers to find clothing colors we don’t offer or price-match. Our suppliers are competing with us on the web and aggressively going after our customers. The business is labor intensive, management intensive, and capital intensive. The regulatory burden keeps increasing. So much work and so many moving parts. When we started, it was a great lifestyle business, but now that it has evolved into three businesses, ski, outdoor furniture, and online with SkiCenter.com, it has become a marathon business.
Our family has been extremely fortunate to attract and retain such an extraordinary group of committed employees, whose passion and knowledge were instrumental in building and maintaining the business. They helped give our business a sense of community and soul, which has become rare in business. Over the past five and a half decades, Ski Center became a Washington institution.
Ski Center also could never have succeeded without such an enthusiastic and loyal customer base. The friendship and support we have received over the last 50+ years from all of our customers has meant so much to everyone here. Thank you for giving us your business, and sharing with us your passion for the sport we all love. We truly couldn't have done it without you.
It has been a great run.