Most New Yorkers probably walk by PSNY (Pro Sports New York), which is located in a decaying concrete building in between a triple X-rated shop and a deli. But the 'core kids in the city have found it through the phone book, the Japanese know about it from magazine ads, and local hipsters who frequent the West Village in search of the latest street look shop here. PSNY is an oddity amidst the hustle and bustle of the city: a 1700-square-foot shop devoid of the regular village idiosyncrasies such as bright, flashy signs or elegant, historic fronts. Upon entering the shop, everything is visible from the front entrance, and the wide range in products is obvious, from little-known brands to names that everyone recognizes. They don't sell Burton, but they sell just about every other brand out there, from Lib Tech to the Future.
Last spring a second store was opened uptown at the Columbus Circle subway stop. The annexed PSNY is very similar in size and style to the original store on the inside, while outside the shop is surrounded by tall office buildings. Also, the new PSNY has an advantage over the original store¿it's across the street from Central Park, which gives the store a lot of in-line business in the summer.
Both are thriving in the Big Apple with a formula that works well in this crazy urban atmosphere: catering to everyone who wants to ride by offering a little bit of everything. SNOWboarding Business caught up with the manager and buyer for both shops, Gunars Elmuts, and asked him a few questions about business, customers, and the importance of being near a McDonald's in the city.
What is it like to be a shop in an urban setting as large as New York City?It's great from a retailer's standpoint. We learn about every kind of customer, from the Japanese to the European market to the East Coast scene. It helps prepare us for trade shows. With such a wide clientele, we've learned how to figure out what people want in a broader sense. It also means we need to have a very educated staff that can offer alternatives when a person comes in set on buying a certain brand that we may not carry. We can usually sell them a different board because we know how to help people understand what they are looking for.
What's the average age of your customers? We cater to a seventeen- to 29-year-old mostly male customer, but there isn't really a typical customer because we have such a variety of people passing through.
Has the downtown PSNY always been a board shop?No, we used to be a full sporting-goods store, but since '92 we have been snowboard-specific, with in-line skates and skateboards year-round.
How did you chose your locations?Both of our shops are close to subway stops, with at least four major lines running through them, and ironically, both are located within one block of a McDonald's. Wherever there is a McDonald's, there is good market research, which means a lot of foot traffic. It must be working, because this year we sold out on all of our boards, and that's a lot of boards, considering the bad snowfall we had.
What are some of the boards, boots, and clothes you sell?Do you have a pen and a lot of paper? This is a long list. MIA, Lib Tech, Gnu, Morrow, Sims, Evol, Shot, the list goes on. Boots: Airwalk, N-Boots, Vans. We have so many different lines.
What do you sell the most of?In the winter we sell a lot of jackets, because we have a pretty heavy street customer clientele with all of the hip-hop styles in the city. You can watch MTV almost anytime and see people who bought stuff in our shop, because the snowboard look is in. People who don't even board are buying the jackets. But they're also buying boots like Airwalk, because the Timberland thing has been done and they are looking for something new.
Are you worried about the sell-out factor now that snowboarding is so trendy? No, I think everyone is trying to protect the 'core. As long as the big corporations keep selling to the specialty shops, then it's okay for the mainstream to buy it. It's inevitable. I have a lot of companies ask me if they should sell to this shop or that shop in the city, and I try to encourage them to stay away from the boutiques, but that's about it. If they get too big, they are only hurting themselves¿because they may sell more, but they lose their edge.
How does PSNY get involved with the local scene?Every few weeks we offer trips up to local mountains. If we're lucky, we break even on them. But basically, it's a good deal for everyone because it's fun. We also sponsor as many contests as we can. We aren't that close to any mountains, so it's kind of hard to actually put on a contest. Besides, there are already so many established ones in the East.
Do you guys service equipment?Definitely. Our basement is a full-service shop. We have two Grindrites, and we use them. We offer two free grinds with every board purchase. We also do a lot of work for free, because we like to make sure everyone is taken care of. If a pair of boots doesn't fit, we'll trade them in, even if it costs us. Typically in New York it's kind of like, "What do you want!" We'll sit down with people for an hour and explain everything about the board to them. This is a nice change for people who are used to New York.