From 2014-2017, I worked at a prominent backpacking store in South Lake Tahoe called Lake of the Sky Outfitters. When it was busy, working at Lake of the Sky Outfitters was a blast. Our main focus was light-weight backpacking and, thanks to our location so close to the Pacific Crest Trail, we provided a lot of support service for Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hikers. This was exceptionally rewarding for me because I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail way back in 1999 and never had much of a chance to give back to the hiking community since I didn’t live on the east coast.
One of my duties while working at the store was to design a monthly advertisement that would appear in the Tahoe Mountain News. The owners of the backpacking shop were some of the nicest people to work for, but they were the first to admit that they had little to no skills in graphic design. One of the problems I faced with designing these ads, however, is something that most graphic designers have to deal with when bidding for contracts with small businesses — a non-existent marketing budget. Our store was no different. Making a go of it as a small business at Lake Tahoe is a daunting task. I always joke that this is where small businesses come to die. Yes, Lake Tahoe accommodates 3 million annual visitors each year, but it’s feast or famine up here. Essentially many small businesses need to capitalize on the three months of summer in order to carry them through the rest of the nine months of the year. This was the case with Lake of the Sky Outfitters particularly because for the first four winters they were in business, Lake Tahoe (as well as all of California) was in a drought meaning no snow = no winter = very little tourism.
As an employee working extremely part-time, I was given the chance to earn an additional two hours of pay each month for assembling the ad. Probably one of the best marketing deals they could’ve ever paid for! But it was fine with me because I respected the owners, knew the financial situation of the business, and got most of the planning done while I was actually working in the shop. I was sad to see the store permanently close at the end of January 2017, but endings are just beginnings to new adventures.