Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Archaeology of Remodeling

The new space at Pack & Paddle has had several lives, and as we progress in the de-construction phase, we've been able to see each life kind of like an archaeologist would see a past civilization. The most noticeable thing you'll see right now is the large airbrushed mural on the wall that was exposed when the tin came down off the walls. Many people that were around in the 80's will remember this mural. It was painted to add atmosphere to "Cypress Mountain". Cypress Mountain was our mechanical ski slope for which this section of the shop was originally built in 1981. It was basically an angled, carpeted conveyor belt that allowed people to ski indoors. We taught skiing and hosted birthday parties on Cypress Mountain from 1981 through 1989.

The next thing you might notice is the unusual paint on the floors. In the late 80's our bicycle department was taking off so much that we decided to remove the mountain, and build a huge bicycle shop in that room. The floors that were painted red, then overpainted with contrasting greys that we put on with a feather duster. Also, it was during this construction that the tin was put on the walls.

Of course the climbing wall is very noticeable. It's roots trace back to the late 90's when P&P returned to its roots of authentic outdoor and filled this room with outdoor gear. The wall was built by Arthur Cormier of the Rok Haus. This phase occurred when we decided to eliminate the bike department from Pack and Paddle.

Removing the bike department was a shock to many as P&P was the largest and most popular bike store in Lafayette. Even 2 years after the bike department was gone, Pack & Paddle was voted Acadiana's favorite bike store in the Times of Acadiana. The reasons for not doing bikes were many, foremost of which was a desire to simplify the business and return to our roots. In closing this part of the shop, we dropped almost half of our sales. Although this was a dangerous thing to do, it has allowed P&P to flower as a pure outdoor store over the last 8 - 10 years and become the shop it is today.

In 2000, Becky and I bought the shop out from my family and moved Black Ice Sports into this room. This is the way that the room stayed until this year when we began the remodeling project. The next time you're in, poke your head in the door and see us doing what we do best: Change and create!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Windows and Doors

Seems like I've heard a story about windows and doors that had] an inspirational message somewhere before. Since I don't remember it, I guess that's a little off the point. But - I do have a neat story about how an old set of windows brought us together with a really cool person.

We've known Catherine Schoeffler for a lot of years, but have never really had the opportunity to spend any time with her. Recently, we were talking to her at the shop about the sale of her share of the Blue Moon to her partner. I asked her what kind of job she might want to move on to. She said "I can skin a deer". Hmm... That one won't land you a lot of jobs. Then she said "I can glaze windows". Becky and I looked at each other in amazement.

We had been looking for someone to glaze 40 old wooden windows that are going to be used in a unique window wall that is going in the new room of the shop. It's not easy these days to find anyone that knows how to glaze windows. So when Catherine said she knew how to glaze and had a free week before she headed off to Alaska, we jumped at the chance and asked if she could start tomorrow.

Over the next week, we had fun getting to know her better and watching her work. 40 is a lot of windows to glaze! She got a bit of a production line going with a young man that's helping out with the construction. She has a great ability to involve people and have fun working with them. By the time the 40 windows were done, and she was headed to Alaska, we were sad to see her go.

So - I'm not sure if the inspirational story was about looking for open doors or going through the windows, but we know that these 40 old windows have been the catalyst to us meeting a new friend here in Lafayette.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting Started

We've been working on this project for what seems like forever, and we are only just now getting ready to start building new stuff. Here's some of the things we've been doing so far:

  • Working with our architect, Scott Shall
  • Tearing down 3 of the old decks in the room.
  • Removing the tin from the walls.
  • Tearing down all the old EPuck racks
  • Moving our office to the old Boat room
  • Moving the boats to the far clothing room
  • Clearing our the downstairs office
  • Completely gutting the downstairs office
  • Clearing out the upstairs office
  • Completely gutting the upstairs office
  • Totally renovating the rent house that EPuck used for 7 years
  • Building a new boat rack
Part of the work is going through years and years of things that have collected on shelves, in drawers and in closets. It's a little like moving out of a house you lived in for years. We're now on the brink of the "fun" part of the project: watching our vision that we have come to life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's So Fun to Buy Something New

Yesterday a father and son were in the shop looking at a backpack. I have to tell you: I love being part of this interaction and the experience of them purchasing the son's first pack. The dad is proud to be passing on backpacking (something that's been a part of his life) and the son is super excited about all the cool packs and is envisioning himself on the trail with his dad. It's just really fun and cool to be a part of it all.

Anyway, this excitement with getting a new piece of gear that I know I'll use a lot is something I forget. Recently I was reminded of this feeling for myself when I purchased a set of new load carrying panniers for my bike. They're from a cottage industry builder called Cobbworks ( These things are made out of reclaimed oyster buckets. They are watertight, durable and made totally from recycled or reclaimed materials. Since we ride to work nearly every day, I couldn't wait for my new buckets to arrive.

As soon as I saw them, I had to take them over and put them on my rear rack. They looked great and fit perfectly. I read all the instructions on how to remove the lids, what to do when you're carrying something taller than the bucket as well as how to attach them.

I think though, the part I am most looking forward to is personalizing the buckets.

A couple of months back, our friend from the AT Tinkerbell (aka Zeb Maharrey) sent me a sticker I had seen with him on the trail. The words on the sticker (in Wal-Mart blue and Wal-Mart typeface) say:
"Mal-Wart Your Source for Cheap Plastic Crap"
I can't wait to put this sticker on the buckets tomorrow. No matter how old we get - we all still love getting a new toy every now and then.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Change Is Difficult

Change is difficult. We all know it, but somehow nobody ever likes going through the process of change. As they say, things get worse before they get better. In case you haven't noticed, we're in the midst of some change at Pack & Paddle.

It's been 20 years since the last major construction project at P&P. We are now on the brink of some major changes to our building. The plans from the architect are nearly complete and we're about to start hammerin' nails. Am I excited? Definitely. Even so, I swing back and forth from elation over some of the ideas we will be bringing to you in the next few months and near-panic of how we'll get it done. We're taking the adventurous route of not hiring a contractor. The technical building will be done by Gerald Istre (a friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail the year before Becky and I), and our staff will provide some of the non-technical grunt work along the way.

This is definitely not the "right" way to go about a project like this. Getting bids and contractors would probably be smarter. But we wanted to leave the project a little loose so that we can experiment and create along the way. When you think about it - this is the way really good outdoor adventure is: Make a good plan, but leave it loose enough to improvise. The fact that you can't clearly see the end is what makes it an "adventure". I would love to say that I'm all about the adventure of this project 24 hours a day. The fact is, I hate the discomfort of not knowing how we'll get this project done. But I also know that by doing it this way, we'll be putting our heart and soul into the construction and in the end that will come through to all of you. Next time you're in, ask us about what's happening - and we'll give you a tour!

If you've been reading Wilderness Words for the last few months, you may remember my lament on saving a few gallons of gas by riding my bike to work since last September. An update on that: Becky and I are still commuting to work on our bikes (and loving it - even in the heat!). What's fun though is that over the last few months all of our fellow employees have begun to commute as well. Today when I went to grab my bike for lunch, there were 5 (!!!) bikes parked there. Take a stand! Conserve fuel, limit your carbon footprint, be a leader and have fun - all at the same time when you ride your bike to work!