by Kirby Lindsay, posted 14 November 2012
The eastern, Stone Way side of Fremont has, for the last decade or more, become a relatively quiet, industrial-ish, hard-working part of the ‘hood. As of now, the quiet is over. evo has now arrived.
Founded as an on-line retailer in 2001, with a garage on Sunnyside Avenue as its initial distribution center, evo sells skis and snowboard gear, outdoor clothing, art and an active, urban lifestyle. Yet, in a time when many retailers shut their doors to follow the legend of internet-only sales, evo showed its characteristic innovative and progressive character by opening a brick-and-mortar store in Fremont. Originally in West Fremont, at 122 N 36th St, as of October 2012, the store has moved to 3500 Stone Way N.
As On-Line Merges With (Bigger) Brick-N-Mortar
Now in a building called The Fremont Collective, evo has twice the square footage as before. It makes some sense, since evo uses its space for much more than just retail sales. At the previous space, the company held movie previews, art shows, fundraisers, music events, etc.
As Jerry Chevassus, the Director of Retail Ops, explained, “the brick-and-mortar furthers the brand. It puts muscle and skin on the brand.” The website provides the heart of the company, and brings in 90% of company revenue, yet Chavassus still believes in the need for the reality the store provides.
The store may bring in less than 10% of revenue, but it gives customers a place to go to meet the people – and see the wide range of products – that make evo different. With the newer, larger store, Chevassus (formerly with R.E.I.) expects to grow the company revenue and, as he observed, “all the ships rise in a rising tide.”
Tell The Story
Yet, the evo store isn’t about retail, exactly. “Retail has become so transactional,” evo Founder Bryce Phillips observed, about his industry – but not his company. For the evo brand, “it’s beyond buy low and sell high,” Chevassus acknowledged. As both men explained, proudly, the new, larger space allows the company to expand its ambitions for its ‘commerce with a cause’ campaign.
The store showcases the efforts of evo – crew and customers – to benefit charitable causes…particularly, “organizations that work with at-risk youth,” Phillips observed. The company partners particularly with The Service Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Vittana. “What this store did for us,” Chevassus explained, “was give us room to tell that story.”
“Getting people engaged, and giving them awareness,” Phillips explained about evo’s commitment to charitable causes – in giving money, space and even time. Company policy gives every employee 40 hours a year to spend working for a cause. As Chevassus explained, it allows everyone who works for evo, “to give some of your energy back.”
The ‘Unexpected Elements’
The building at N 35th Street & Stone Way originally was built, in 1910, as a mattress factory. Many of the original elements of the structure have been restored, and/or enhanced, including the original floors and concrete. The evo merchandise displays and register area have been installed to create visually interesting, and practical, sight lines for customers and crew. With the colorful, artistic snowboards and skis on display on the mezzanine, they can be accessed without becoming clutter for the casual shopper – and provide a bright accent to the whole store.
The store can also be easily modified to the variety of uses needed by evo. “We are a multi-channel retailer,” explained Chevassus, with need for a multi-faceted space. A platform in the women’s clothing area can be converted to a stage for live music shows. The front shopping area can easily accommodate a DJ and gathering space for a hundred or so guests. “One of the unexpected themes,” of the space, Phillips observed, “are the unexpected elements.”
While not quite completed, the new store will have an art gallery. However, at 122 N 36th Street, the gallery operated alongside the retail space. On Stone Way, the gallery will be integrated, and during the opening celebrations, Jeff ‘Weirdo’ Jacobson created live art, with one piece currently being auctioned off to benefit The Service Board.
The store will also, for the first time, have a children’s boutique. It also has a full service ski and snowboard shop, although this is not new. Since 2005, evo has offered wax, tune, fittings, repairs and mounts, now located in a brightly lit basement area.
The Fremont Collective, & Makerhaus
In addition to evo, the extensively renovated building also has two fine restaurants.
The Whale Wins has opened immediately next door to evo. Owned and operated by the same team that created The Walrus & The Carpenter in Ballard, The Whale Wins offers a vegetable focused menu, cooked in wood-fired ovens. The small restaurant seats 40 in the dining room for lunch and dinner, with an additional 20 seats available on the garden patio.
Joule has also relocated here, from its previous location on 45th Street in Wallingford. Now located closer to Revel, its relative restaurant in West Fremont, Joule will be open for dinner, and weekend brunch.
Until recently, the building also had Innerspace, one of Seattle’s very few (perhaps, only) indoor skateboard parks, located in the basement. According to Phillips, another indoor skatepark is likely to open and operate there again soon.
And, in the former evo store, at 122 N 36th St, Fremont will soon welcome Makerhaus. According to the Makerhaus Facebook page, the 10,000 square feet of warehouse will be renovated for use as a shared space for hobbyists, professional creative, and anyone interested in design and fabrication. Currently scheduled to open in January 2013, Makerhaus will offer educational as well as equipment access – much like ADX in Portland and 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Leaving creativity in its wake seems so very evo. For those unfamiliar with the urban, active attitude that evo generates, visit the store – or one of the restaurants – at the Fremont Collective, now. With construction due to begin on the headquarters of Brooks Sports across the street, and remodel of the North Seattle Transfer Station coming soon one block east, Fremonsters had already turned their attention to Stone. evo gives us all reason to visit sooner rather than later.
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.