It was 32 years ago when Jan Guenther quit everything after graduate school and bought a bike store in the Chicago area. “When we started carrying skis at the store, I met my husband, who was a ski rep. We felt the Twin Cities was better for a ski store and moved here together to open Gear West. Our first store was only 500 square feet behind a Domino’s Pizza. We ate a lot of rejects from Domino’s,” laughs Jan. Since that first store, Gear West has now settled down in their current Long Lake location, optimally situated right next to Baker Park, which offers miles of cross-country ski and bike trails.
“Around 10 years ago, we added alpine to our run, cross country ski, bike, and alpine ski products and services,” says Jan. “From clothing apparel, custom boot fittings, and waxing for alpine and cross-country skis to bike repairs and gait analysis for running, there’s really no other store like us. We specialize in servicing what we sell.”
What makes Gear West truly stand out is the staff’s exceptional knowledge and experience. “One of our staff members spent eight years on the Olympic Freestyle Ski team,” says Jan. “Another is a pro snowboard racer. Our Nordic ski and service manager was one of the fastest junior skiers in the US. We have coaches here and also just enthusiasts who love these sports.” Jan, herself, is a triathlete. She learned cross-country skiing quickly, trained hard, and went to the Olympic trials in Anchorage. Not to mention placing 2nd overall at the famous American Birkebeiner. To say Gear West’s staff has unparalleled knowledge and experience is an understatement.
Jan understands walking into a store like Gear West, especially if you’re a beginner, can be intimidating. “For me, it’s like walking into an Apple Store, where I don’t know much about technology. But we know how to help people, we’re immersed in what we sell, and we love our customers. We welcome all levels of experience, and we want our customers to feel comfortable. We listen and ask the right questions to determine how to meet your hopes and goals and aspirations. And if something doesn’t work right, we want you to bring the item back in so we can fix it or change it up to what works better.”
So whether you’re coming in to replace old equipment, to get faster at your sport, to get fit, or to participate with the family, Gear West is the place to go. “There are a zillion options for skis and bikes out there, and it’s amazing how quickly we can narrow down the choices to fit the person based on their height, weight, and ability. As long as you want to do it, we can get you going!” Jan’s enthusiasm and love for sports is infectious. And with winter already upon us, now is the time to let Jan and her team at Gear West help you make the most of a Minnesota winter. “I’m a huge advocate for anyone going out to exercise in any way they want to,” says Jan. “We’ll help you get the right clothing to keep warm and direct you on how to dress so you can enjoy cross-country skiing and fat tire biking on the dozens of trails in the area or alpine skiing at Buck Hill. We can also show you how to take your dog out skijoring so you and your dog can head out on the trails together.”
They even have shoes with spikes so you won’t slip when going for a run in the winter. Or, perhaps just walking to your car across the parking lot.
“It’s been a long 30-plus years of growth and expansion, and has been a heartwarming and challenging experience,” shares Jan. “We appreciate everyone who has supported our small business and would love you to stop in. You’ll be amazed to see the depth of our inventory, our knowledge, and our willingness to show you a lot of really cool gear!” Get out this winter and learn more at: gearwest.com