By Indrek Kongats

The Ellicottville Times recently had the opportunity to chat with Kim Reading, owner of Mud Sweat n’ Gears, one of Ellicottville’s finest ski shops and a great place to stop before the holidays or during the break.

Can you tell me something about the history of the store, when it was first started? What was the inspiration in starting a ski shop?

Mud, Sweat n’ Gears opened its doors in 1992 as a specialty bike shop…thus the name. In the late 90s, a small amount of ski equipment was added to the mix and the business became a year-round operation. We purchased the store in the summer of 2000 and expanded the store by moving to 21 Washington Street (the current Kazoo II location).  We saw the greatest opportunity for growth was with the ski business. We wanted to create a customer service driven specialty ski and snowboard shop unique in its range and level of service. We put a tremendous amount of effort into growing the winter business and in the summer of 2013, we moved to our current location at 18 Monroe Street. It was hands down the best business decision we ever made.

You have a great looking store— well-designed, creative and very artfully done. Who is the creative one?

We both had some influence of the design of our store and we spent a lot of time and had a lot of fun…gathering ideas from different shops we visited over the years. We worked with Phil Vogt Construction and together we decided to completely gut the interior of the building. Everything was removed…light fixtures, drop ceilings, partition walls, dry wall, carpeting and laminate flooring. We weren’t sure what we were going to find, but we liked what we uncovered and wanted to leave it as exposed, or organic, as possible. We didn’t work with a specific floor plan or designer… it all just came together. The building has a lot of history and unique character, which appeals to people. It’s a comfortable space and an easy place to do business.

I think readers would be interested in a little background on both you and Miguel (Azcarate, Kim’s husband and co-owner), including when and how you both meet.

Miguel came to Ellicottville from Spain in the late 1980s. We first met when I started working in the Holiday Valley Marketing Department with Jane Eshbaugh in 1992. Miguel was coaching the Holiday Valley race team at the time. We were asked to do a photo shoot together and the rest is history. (OK, that’s the abbreviated version.) We were married in 1996. Mud, Sweat n’ Gears was an opportunity we couldn’t resist. As a husband and wife team, we have been lucky enough to build our business around the sport and lifestyle we love. We stay inspired because our love for skiing is without bounds. And we’re also fortunate to have an amazing staff who share the same attitude.

I know that leasing equipment is a big deal for parents with growing kids. Do you find this successful?

While the majority of our customers buy equipment, our seasonal lease program has been very successful and continues to grow every season. The program is an easy and affordable ski or snowboard equipment option for people who are new to snow sports, growing families and folks who aren’t ready to fully invest in new gear. Leasing packages start at just $99 for children and $169 for adults. Customers also have the option of leasing new or used equipment, depending on how much they want to spend.

Your tuning shop looks state-of-the-art. Are people taking advantage of that?

The MSG “Speed Factory” is home to the most innovative tuning machinery from Montana of Switzerland. These machines were a big investment and have proved to be worth it. We can do everything from a basic sharpen and wax to a specialized race tune. In order to compliment the existing machinery, we added a new tool called the “Wax Future.” This machine uses an infrared heat source to heat the base of the ski. This provides better and deeper wax penetration into the base of the ski, for longer and better gliding on the snow. If you find yourself frustrated by catching edges, have no bite on hard snow, see damage on your base or you neglected your equipment over the summer, it’s time for a proper tune-up at the Speed Factory. We tune skis from the time we open in the morning to the time we close at night. Overnight service is available.

What is your strongest specialty?

Mud, Sweat n’ Gears has become a destination for people who want specialized boot fitting. These days, customers seem to understand the importance of the hands-on, face-to-face experience of buying boots.  As a member store of America’s Best Bootfitters, our job at Mud Sweat n’ Gears is to find you the perfect match. We’re not going to put a customer in a random pair of boots and send them on their way. Finding the right boot fit takes time and means more than just trying on a pair or two of boots. Our guys are very good at what they do and take the time to make sure the boots they fit you with are suited to your needs and abilities. We offer a wide range of ski boots, from Rossignol, Nordica, Head, Tecnica, Lange, Dalbello and Fischer.

Ski racing has also been an important part of our business. The Mud, Sweat n’ Gears Race Center has been Western New York’s long time go-to source for the best equipment, boot fitting and race specific tuning.  Sought out by FIS racers and weekend warriors alike, we offer the best in race skis, boots, bindings, helmets, goggles, race suits, protection, wax and tools. Our competent staff will make sure you have the proper equipment specific to your age group, events, ability level, etc….at the most competitive prices. We’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Mud, Sweat n’ Gears is proud to sponsor the Niagara Frontiers Ski Council and New York State Ski Racing.

On-the-hill shops rely on little items that amount to major revenue like hand warmers, gloves, socks and other things that people forget. Are you getting those types of sales or are you selling more high-end items and complete packages?

We sell everything from the little items to complete ski and snowboard packages. From socks and hand-warmers, to helmets and goggles, to outerwear and accessories…it’s one stop shopping. As a full service specialty store, we work hard every year to put together an extensive collection of quality products to maximize your experience out on the slopes.

Is your shop setting trends, in fashion, in equipment—what sets you apart from the other shops?

One glance at our outerwear selection and you’ll agree that we appreciate great ski fashion and function in our outdoor clothing. We are always looking for the unique, “got-to-have-it” ski clothing and accessories that have become part of our signature outdoor clothing offering. With top ski clothing brands like Arc’teryx, Marmot, Spyder and more, we offer a variety sure to meet your style, size, and function requirements. We search high and low so you don’t have to for all types of mountain and ski fashion. We carry a fun and trendy selection of mountain lifestyle wear as well….pieces you’ll reach for on and off the slopes. Lots of sweaters, cashmere wraps, casual jackets, shirts and tops, dresses, skirts, tights, hats, scarves, sporty bags, footwear, etc. – perfect après ski and resort wear.

Our hard good buyers have worked hard to ensure that our collection covers all levels of skiing, while providing skis that perform at the highest level to ensure great days out on the mountain. This year’s top performers include some of our favorites like Nordica, Head, Volkl and Rossignol. Whether you have an appetite for floaty powder skis, all mountain performers, gutsy side cuts for groomer days or blazing fast race equipment, chances are you’ll find what you fancy on our ski wall. Try before you buy….demo skis are available.

What is the most important message that you want skiers to know about your shop and your mission as a retailer?

Service. Service. Service. Customer service is more than just being attentive to our customers. It is listening, respecting, and being honest with them. From the sales floor to the back shop, customer service has always been our highest priority.

Well folks, there you have it! Make sure you stop in at Mud Sweat n’ Gears, say hi to Kim and Miguel and their friendly and informative staff and just enjoy the experience of being in one classy little ski shop!