The History of the Gear West Pig Out Sale
Origins of the Pig Out Sale
Thirty years ago, Gear West Ski & Bike opened their door into a tiny, rented 500 sq foot building behind Domino’s Pizza in Long Lake. We (Brian Knutson and me, Jan Guenther) invested $11,000 to stock basic bike repair items. A sprinkling of Bridgestone bikes and a few Fischer skis rounded out the offerings. I remember our first sale, a pair of padded bike gloves and a shift cable. The building had a connecting door to Dominos and all order mistakes were ours to eat.
Fast forward two years later, one location change and a lot of hard work, we bought our own building, the old Long Lake State bank. Complete with a safe, the old bank was retrofitted to house a lot more skis and two more bike brands. We built an enclosed boat yard to display Wenonah canoes and to house Hoover, a small potbellied pig. I had always wanted a tiny pig, and this was my grand opportunity. Hoover, the piglet ate a lot and grew into a sturdy midsized pig with tusks, which elicited many comments from Long Lake’s residents.
Pig memories include wrestling Hoover into the retail building during a tornado warning and him beelining into the Powerbar and Gu food displays. How he could smell food through the mylar wrappers I have no idea, but the ferocity of his eating sprayed goopy food particles everywhere. One chilly night a concerned citizen demanded the Long Lake police investigate the happiness of Hoover, since he lived outside. As the policeperson peered into the outdoor pig house with his light, Hoover lay nestled under a heat lamp all wrapped up just like any Pig with two blankets. The police officer dryly commented, “I wish everyone in Long Lake were as cozy warm as this pig”
Yet, like the evolution of life, Gear West grew. Owning a pig and devoting a substantial part of high-priced land to his well-being did not align with stuff I learned in business school. So, Hoover retired to ‘the home’, and memories of him turned into the Pig Out sale and our fun new Pig logo.
The Pig Out Sale began as a response to the Hoigaards Tent Sale which was always a memorable kick-off to winter and was typically two weekends after Labor Day. But with the changing retail market and in the hope that it gets a little bit colder we decided that going forward the Pig Out sale will go three weekends after Labor Day. It doesn’t hurt that that now gives our staff the opportunity to take part in the Chequamegon Fat Tire festival most years.
Much overlap still exists with pigs and Gear West. We still consume a frightening amount of pizza from dominoes every Saturday (unfortunately not the mistakes anymore) and we are stubbornly focused on the activities we love, skiing, biking, and running, although thankfully not mud baths and belly scratches (as often.)