Summit Hut: Following the Golden Rules
Summit Hut / Tucson, AZ
Notable: In October, the retailer will host its biggest event ever — a bash celebrating its 50th anniversary in business.
Quotable: “Everyone likes a discount or a party, but the educational side is really fantastic for truly giving your customers the tools they need to use your products and get out and enjoy the outdoors.”
— Dana Davis, Summit Hut
For a half century in the outdoors mecca of Tucson, AZ, a sprawling metropolis of nearly one million with more than 120 parks and recreation areas, Summit Hut has worked diligently to serve and grow the region’s nation of outdoor enthusiasts. Much of that effort has focused on a myriad of events aimed at educating and entertaining both seasoned veterans and newbies to the outdoor life.
“We do a combination of events and promotions and vary them up,” says Dana Davis, who has co-owned the two-door specialty chain with her husband Jeremy, a licensed financial planner, for the last eight years after buying the business from co-founder Dave Baker. “Some events are very specific, some brand-driven and other more general, like our regular ‘Ladies Nights’ and still others, more educational for smaller groups as we get them prepared for activities like hiking or rafting The Grand Canyon.”
There is also a “Gear & Beer” night, weekly free yoga classes at both stores, regular “How to Pack Your Pack” nights designed to teach people how to lighten their loads on the trail and movie nights in the store’s community room that is often reserved for meetings by local groups such as the Tucson Tri Girls and El Camino Club. Ladies Nights are usually themed, with a recent event focused on Glamping, complete with a fashion show of participants wearing stylish outdoor outfits, Henna tattoos, gift bags and an educational slide presentation.
In October, Summit Hut, with a 24,000 square foot operation (14,000 square foot store with the rest for offices and a warehouse) on the East-West thoroughfare known as Speedway and another in nearby Oro Valley, AZ, will host its biggest event ever, a 50th anniversary bash. The day will incorporate a presentation by Baker, a big sales event, an Octoberfest setting complete with Oompah band and beer and a focus on the history of brand partner, Lowa, Summit Hut’s heritage partner that month. The retailer is a founding member of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, joining under Baker when the organization was known as the Retailers of the Outdoor Industry (ROI).
Davis says it’s important for Summit Hut to not only embrace its customer base and the community, some 108 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, but also to embrace its key vendors. Every month in 2019, one brand partner is being highlighted. In April, it was Black Diamond’s turn. The chain conducted a writing contest among customers with 15 selected winners joining store and brand staff for sponsored day of rock climbing complete with guide. In September, Summit Hut will host its third annual “Give A Little, Gift A Lot” event with Patagonia, donating approximately $20,000 in grant money to four area nonprofits as voted on by customers.
Summit Hut does not charge for its events, but often raises money for one of Tucson’s outdoor organizations or non-profits at them by selling beer glasses for $5 a pop complete with two fills by the store. In March, Summit Hut was again involved with the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival with part of all proceeds given to five local nonprofits, and more recently, the store hosted the Arizona Trail Association’s 25th Anniversary Party.
Davis, mother of a 10-year old son, counts backpacking, day hiking and camping with her family as favored activities.
“From any point in town, you can get to a trailhead within 30 minutes or less,” remarks Davis, who has worked at Summit Hut for 21 years and coordinates the chain’s events with general manager Tracey Bohm with assistance from an external marketing team. “It’s really easy to have some fun outside here.”
She offers some advice for others in outdoor specialty retail looking to ratchet up their events and promotions: “Everyone likes a discount or a party, but the educational side is really fantastic for truly giving your customers the tools they need to use your products and get out and enjoy the outdoors. You can not get a couple of hundred people to show up at every event. You might want to purposefully plan events around a more intimate setting where you can really help educate your consumers in the best ways that work for them.”