In a world of Amazon Prime and next-day delivery, the local shops that survive are the ones that reach the heart of the consumer. The local shop is where many working in the snowboard industry get their start, where many pros pick up their first sponsor, and where most of us bought our first setup.
Started in 2002 by like-minded, passion-driven entrepreneurs JG Mazzotta and Raul Pinto, Satellite Boardshop has become a legacy spot in Boulder, Colorado. Capitalizing on the need for a local boardshop in Boulder when Brothers Boards shut down in 2001, the two wanted to create a hub where snowboarders and skateboarders could come and feel like part of a community, hence the name Satellite. They had experience in the business, as Mazzotta had been managing Brothers Boards at a mere 17 years old, and Pinto, nine years senior, had been riding professionally for SIMS and spent the better part of his life on a snowboard.
Raul and JG in their natural element.
Their credibility comes down to having genuine relationships and understanding with who they choose to represent their shop. Mazzotta describes the process as "organic." The people who show up to shop events like release parties and season kickoff sales are the same people that Pinto and Mazzotta see at the skatepark or on the mountain. "It's very rare that we hire somebody that walks through the door and asks for a job," Mazzotta says. "We just meet somebody, whether it's participating in skating or snowboarding, and it turns into a friendship." Employees who care, understand, and participate in the lifestyle that Mazzotta and Pinto have built their shop around are an integral component to the shop's success, because product knowledge and familiarity of terrain close the sale for the one-stop shopper. "If you're not participating in the sport regularly, how could you know anything about it? It's insane to me that anyone who hasn't picked up a snowboard or ridden one in any length of time would try to sell a snowboard. I feel 110 percent confident, between JG and I and the rest of the staff on the floor, that we know about riding the boards, selecting the boards, and finding the best equipment for people," Pinto said.
Raul and Alex Andrews enjoying themselves. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd
When a customer walks into the shop they can see and touch any board they are interested in, and they can inquire to a welcoming staff that has exerted ample amount of time riding the same snowboards on the same mountains—something which cannot be experienced online or without a reputable crew.
"I would say the number one thing is that we've been physically doing this as long as anybody. We know more about it from actually doing it. Putting that kind of time in riding makes such a big difference in what you can tell someone about what they're going to buy," Pinto said. The feeling of leaving a shop with something new and knowing absolutely, without a doubt, that this is the right product for you is a feeling that inspires people to get excited again and go snowboarding, ultimately driving more people out there to step on a board.
OG Satellite rider Ben Lynch admiring a next generation shop rider, Justin Phipps. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd
Through video premieres, release parties, camping trips, and demo days, Mazzotta and Pinto stand true to giving back to a lifestyle that has done so much for them. They work to be a shop that bypasses the intimidating environment that some core shops emanate, and the idea is to involve the community in an inclusive manner that's driven by a natural inclination to stoke people out.
The most anticipated annual event is Love Games, a freestyle snowboarding contest that gathers 100-150 snowboarders each year, including riders like Chad Otterstrom and Mike Rav, on Loveland Pass to ride do-it-yourself hand-dug features and drink beer with friends on the mountain. "It's really to get the word out that the reason you support a local business is because of this event that you're standing at," Mazzotta said. "Without local shops being around, these things wouldn't happen."
What Mazzotta and Pinto have aspired to accomplish and successfully achieved is something with longevity—a lifestyle and culture for Colorado skateboarders and snowboarders that goes beyond a physical storefront.
Colorado community of snowboarders and homies gathering to experience the insanity of Love Games. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd
It's easy for consumers to go online, see a board that looks cool for a reasonable price, and pull the trigger on it. While nearly 14 percent of Satellite's sales are online through satelliteboardshop.com, their lifeblood is their in-store operation. Their main priority is selling an experience—selling the idea that without connecting with someone and learning about the product, customers are not doing all they can for themselves and for the snowboard community as a whole.
Mazzotta and Pinto are snowboarders through and through, a trait that can largely be credited for their steady success and loyal clientele. They push product they believe in with a staff they know will uphold the positive shopping experience that is coveted so dearly over the online click-to-buy, and they've been leading with authenticity for 15 years. For them, it's a natural development. Mazzotta puts it like this, "We are a snowboard shop; we are a skateboard shop. Those are the only two things we've carried since we opened. That's our thing. That's what we believe in, and that's what we believe people should be riding out there. We have lots of comrades and friends that are doing the same things we are doing in other areas of Colorado, and we have nothing but love and support for those guys, because we're all fighting against the internet and the ski patio furniture snowboard shops."