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Nov 20, 2018 | Commerce + Retail Magazine People Shop Talk

Podcasts, Glen Plake, and $100,000
By Doug Schnitzspahn

Hosting podcasts and festivals Tahoe City, California’s Alpenglow Sports has become a community fixture. And that commitment is about to get even bigger to the tune of $100,000 the shop will help donate to local non profits.

Alpenglow Sports new “Donor Party” is going to make a big impact in Tahoe—by donating $106,250 (with more on the way) throughout the year to local non-profits in need. Those funds will be distributed in conjunction with the Tahoe City, California-based shop’s free Speaker Series, which draws 500-800 attendees each show and already raises money for local, in-need organizations via raffles and anonymous donation. To date, the program—which hosted local hero Dave Nettle and benefited the Adventure Risk Challenge on November 15 and plans to overflow the house when extreme ski deity Glen Plake takes the stage on November 29—averages $8,000-$10,000 in fundraising per show, hauling in $40,000 for local non profits in 2017-2018. The Donor Party, which consists of 15 private donors will up that haul to $30,000-plus per show. But Alpenglow owner Brendan Madigan sees this as just the beginning.

“We think it’ possible to grow this to raise $1 million per year for charities,” says Madigan, who bought the famed Tahoe shop in 2011, after working there for eight years.

It’s essential to Madigan that the speaker series remain free of charge and that it leverage on the wide range of people who love Tahoe, the wild, and public lands—”from San Francisco execs to local ski bums,” he says. That demographic and the concept of being just as much a community rallying reflects the way he sees the store serving Tahoe. “Alpenglow has customers who have shopped with us for nearly as long as I’ve been alive, and whether you are a new ski bum recently transplanted from Vermont, a tourist from the Midwest or a Bay Area CEO, we feel that our customer base has played a massive role in contributing to our 39-year-old DNA,” he says. “Accordingly, we feel a tremendous loyalty to give back and do the right thing by those who have supported us.”

Beyond the Speaker Series, Alpenglow will host its famed nine-day-long Mountain Festival February 16-24. Featuring everything from skate-skiing and beginner backcountry clinics to a screening of Mountainfilmand yoga, the mega-event won a listing as a “Can’t Miss Winter Festival” in Outside magazine. Add to that backcountry safety events and film series, hosted by the shop and Alpenglow has amassed a following as more than a retailer but as an active empowerer of outdoor customers from newbies to old Tahoe curmudgeons. And Madigan creates a podcast, appropriately dubbed “Afterglow,” which he records with each speaker in the series after the big live talk. The podcast has been a huge hit racking up five-stars on ITunes with 66 glowing reviews so far. The sixth episode featuring Tommy Caldwell has been the most popular to date with 6,944 downloads and counting, followed closely by the first episode which featured ski mountaineer and guide Adrian Ballinger and adventure photographer Cory Richards. Other guests form a A-list of big mountain heroes, including Hilaree Nelson, JT Holmes, Emily Harrington, Stephan Drake, Kim Havel and Chris Burkard. The latest podcast, which can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Google Play, dropped on November 16 and features climber Emily Harrington.

“I love all the episodes for different reasons,” says Madigan. “There’s always little gems of advice from these amazing people and it’s been a total emotional exploration for me personally. It’s my hope that people can be inspired and learn from these great humans and apply a little bit of that in their everyday lives to enrich their own personal stories and make the world just a little bit more of a better place in the process.”

Afterglow was not an initiative meant to drive traffic to the store or Speaker Series. Like many of Madigan’s projects was simply something he wanted to try. “The entire Afterglow initiative was built on some major health issues I’ve experienced in the last three years, during which I serendipitously listened to some influential podcasts, particularly Dave Isay’s “The Art of Listening,” he says “We’ve had the most iconic athletes come to our Winter Film Series over the last 13 years and I just thought I could replicate a similar endeavor that would allow the lessons from presentations come across in an audio format on a global scale. I like to call it an emotional exploration for both myself and the guest.”

In the end, all of Alpeglow’s community pieces, from the Donor Party to Afterglow, add up to help the core retail shop thrive, at least indirectly. But is it a blueprint for retail success?  That depends on the store and the owner. The biggest clue other owners can take from Madigan is simply trusting in themselves and following their own path.

“I don’t know that retailers should or shouldn’t be creating media,” Madigan says. “I just follow my heart and do what I’m interested in and find personally fulfilling.”