RIP Marmot

Posted by Ken Campbell January 19, 2014 0 Comment 2154 views

I found out this past week that the Bellevue Marmot store is going to be shutting its doors. It’s not like anyone couldn’t see it coming… it had been a topic of discussion for years among those of us who had worked in the Marmot empire at some point. It’s the kind of job you never really leave somehow, even after the job itself ceases to exist.

I can recall being about 14 years old and walking into Granite Stairway Mountaineering in Santa Barbara, the first actual outdoor specialty shop I’d ever been in. It was a powerful experience for me and just knowing that stores like this existed was inspiring. The crowded aisles contained the tools that caught my imagination and suggested that almost anything, almost anywhere, was not only possible but imperative. It was just a store, I suppose, but it sold something that other stores did not and its business was more than just what was listed in its ledgers.

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Marmot is like that. It is a holdover from a different time and a reminder of what used to be fairly common. Now, here in this brave, new century, it’s just surprising that Marmot  has kept its doors open for as long as it has. Lock Miller, the owner and guiding force behind the company for 40 years, used to own and operate five stores in the chain, places like Berkeley and San Jose, and business was good. Lock has been riding that outdoor retail roller coaster for a long time now, and the closing of the Bellevue store – the last of the Marmot stores – is the end of that ride and an unfortunate sign of the times.

I remember how I felt when Backpackers Supply shut down. That was the Tacoma Marmot store – same owner, different name. I knew that it was going to happen someday, but I wasn’t prepared for it when the actual news hit. It wasn’t the money – paychecks were never big enough for it to be about the money – but there was something about working in a place like that, with staff like that, and with customers like the ones we had, that makes it feel less like work and more like home.

And it is very hard to lose your home. Thanks to Lock Miller for an amazing run. And all the best to those Bellevue employees, the last of a once-great tribe, soon to be a memory, something the old people talk about that the kids don’t understand. You will be missed.

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