By Oliver Lazenby
When word spread that the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop in Glacier was for sale, it sparked fears that it would close for good and snowboarding would lose a patch of hallowed ground. Those fears weren’t unfounded. The “shop that grew with the Northwest” also grew with snowboarding, and snowboarding hasn’t been growing at all in the last five years.
But the shop will endure. Jeff Lemen took a risk based on the idea that there’s still room for a snowboard-specific store – especially one that so many snowboard legends have made a home away from home – and bought the shop last spring. It’s now open for the winter, seven days a week.
“Keeping the heritage intact is very important. There are not many snowboard-specific shops that have been around this long,” Lemen said. “This is like the holy grail of snowboarding.”
Lemen grew up in Oak Harbor, learned to snowboard at Mt. Baker and bought his first snowboard at the shop in 1990, a year after it opened. Walking into the shop back then gave him a feeling that a friend recently described as a “sense of aloha.”
To Lemen, it still has that feeling and he aims to maintain it.
“What made it was that special thing where you could walk in and it had a feeling to it, like a clubhouse,” he said. “Whether you are buying anything or not, it’s OK to be here. That’s the message I want to put out.”
Like always, a trip to the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop still comes with the chance of running into a traveling pro or local legend. But now, the odds of the latter happening are stacked; snowboard godfather Tex Devenport tunes snowboards at the shop.
“Over the last month we kind of hung out and he sees my vision for it and he’s on board 100 percent,” Lemen said. “He’s also someone I looked up to as a kid, so it’s surreal.”
Lemen, who’s in his early 40s, spent time working in the snowboard industry as a sales rep for multiple snowboard brands, but quit for other work in 2009. Most recently, he was selling vacation homes in the Southeast and taking off in the winters to travel, which included excursions to Mt. Baker.
He looked into starting a shop of his own in another location before talking with the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop’s previous owner, Marcella Dobis, last winter. The opportunity to buy the shop where he bought his first snowboard was too good to pass up.
“This was one of my dreams growing up,” he said. “It’s strictly passion. I took off the suit and tie to do this.” x