Foggy Mountain Shop’s new owners ready to hit the trail running

By January 28, 2014Business, Economy, Outdoors

After 40 years, a well-known downtown Juneau business has changed hands.

Foggy Mountain Shop, an outdoor equipment and ski store, sold this week to two longtime employees. Its former owners – Betsy and Scott Fischer – are now retired, though they’ll be around to advise the new owners whenever they need it.

Former Foggy Mountain Shop owners Scott and Betsy Fischer with new owners Courtney Nicholl and Sean Rielly just hours after the store changed hands on Monday. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

Former Foggy Mountain Shop owners Scott and Betsy Fischer with new owners Courtney Nicholl and Sean Rielly just hours after the store changed hands on Monday. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

Courtney Nicholl came to Juneau six years ago to work a summer job in the tourism industry. She fell in love with the town, and decided to stay, but needed a year round position.

“Got myself a spot at Foggy Mountain Shop, which is surprisingly hard to do believe it or not,” she says. “And I’ve been here ever since.”

Nicholl and Sean Rielly are the new owners of the shop, affectionately called “Foggy” by its loyal customers. They signed the final paperwork to buy the shop on Monday. Rielly has worked at the store for 11 years.

“It’s all my interests. Hiking, skiing, just anything outside is of interest to me really,” Rielly says.

About a year ago, the pair started the process of securing a Small Business Administration loan to purchase the shop. They worked with the Alaska Small Business Development Center, part of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Rielly and Nicholl have never run their own business. But Nicholl says they’ve learned a lot from Scott and Betsy Fischer.

“Just being able to really tailor what we offer here to what works in Juneau specifically,” she says. “And [they] taught us to be committed to what we’re doing here and provide the best service and the best relationships with people here at the shop.”

The new owners inherit Foggy Mountain’s rich history. Betsy Fischer was 22 years old when she and two friends started the shop in January 1974, a fact that still amazes her.

“If anyone had told me 40 years ago this is what I’d do all of my adult life I would have laughed,” Fischer says. “But it’s been quite a ride.”

Two years after the store opened, co-founders Joe Ebner and Dick Rose died in a climbing accident. Fischer says she ran the shop by herself for several years before meeting her husband Scott, who came on as a partner.

While Foggy has moved several times, it has always remained in downtown Juneau. It’s been at its current location on North Franklin Street since 1989.

Fischer says they’ve always survived by focusing on the local community.

“If people want to come in and get personal service and talk to people who actually use the equipment, know what they’re doing, support the community, then they should come in and shop in our store,” says Fischer. “We’ve always been very happy to support the community here, and we’ve been very happy the community has supported us, otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.”

And she believes the shop will continue to thrive.

“There’s always been a very active outdoor population here, but it’s become even more so,” Fischer says. “I see more young people doing super adventurous things right now, and it’s very exciting to see.”

The Fischers plan to remain in Juneau, where they’re active in outdoor activities. Both Scott and Betsy volunteer as Nordic ski instructors at Eaglecrest Ski Area. They bought a boat last summer, and they’re looking forward to becoming grandparents.

Betsy says they couldn’t have asked for two better people to take over the business.

“You would never want anybody to even touch your skis or your equipment unless they had the experience that Sean has,” she says. “Courtney is a go-getter, and she can multitask like nobody’s business, which is a very important thing in a small business owner.”

Nicholl says not much will change at Foggy Mountain, because really, why mess with success?

“There’s going to be new perspectives, new products. Every season brings something new here, regardless of the owners,” Nicholl says. “So we just want to bring you what’s new in the outdoor industry and just remain the shop that we are.”

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