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Interview with SIA Retailer of the Year, South Central Region: Neptune Dive and Ski


Kris, Dennis & Shane Salisbury-Austria

“We are on target to have one of our best ski seasons ever!”

Congrats to Neptune Dive and Ski, Nashville, TN, SIA’s 2010 SIA SnowSports South Central Retailer of the Year winner. We caught up with Dennis Salisbury, to learn about how he got started in the industry and what this award means to him.

Dennis and his wife, Kris, own Neptune Dive and Ski & the worldwide dive agency MDEA. Dennis started diving at the age of 12. He went on to obtain his BS in Biology and MS in Fisheries Biology. In 1970 he tried his hand at skiing and got hooked. In 1973 Dennis became a dive instructor and founded the Neptune Equipment Company. He added skiing to the mix in 1976. Since then, he has worked not only to build his business, but to continue to grow scuba diving, skiing and snowboarding in middle Tennessee and the surrounding region. Dennis has personally certified over 3,500 divers and is committed to serving skiers and divers in Tennessee, Alabama and the surrounding areas.

SIA: How did you get started in the industry?
Dennis: I started Neptune as a part-time scuba diving shop in early 1973. In 1976, I made Neptune a full-time business and added skiing, another hobby of mine, to the mix so as to have a viable year round business. Neptune was the first full service ski retailer in Middle Tennessee.

SIA: Why are you in this industry?
Dennis: I love the sports of skiing and filled and area of need by becoming a ski and later snowboard retailer. Also, it would have been nearly impossible to have a viable business if scuba was our only sport.

Kris & Dennis Salisbury - ItalySIA: How important is marketing to specialty shops?
Dennis: Very important not only to attract new customers, but also to interest people into trying the sport.

SIA: How can specialty shops stay relevant with this economy and more people purchasing off the internet?

  1. We must maintain reasonable pricing.
  2. We must offer services with our products that can’t be offered over the internet.
  3. As best we can we do not buy from companies that have loose internet policies.
  4. We must maintain an atmosphere of friendliness, care, and impeccable service so our customers truly enjoy shopping with us rather than on the faceless internet.

SIA: What was your highlight from the 2011 Snow Show and/or On-Snow Demo?
Dennis: I was amazed at how many new exhibitors there were, especially considering the economy.

SIA: What’s the most rewarding thing about being a specialty retailer?
Dennis: Pleasing our customers. Our staff and I have become very knowledgeable in the three sports we cater to (skiing, snowboarding and scuba diving) and having so many people trust us and appreciate how we can help them with their needs.

SIA: What does being nominated by suppliers and reps and winning this award mean to you?
Dennis: It means a lot to my staff and me. To be recognized as an elite retailer by the snow sports industry shows us that we are doing things the right way. It also gives us a reputation to uphold and we are encouraged to try harder to keep improving and hopefully be recognized again in the future. It also is good for business when our customers see our award by the check-out counter.

Don’t forget the important part of skiing…Wine & snacks after a great day on the hill, Dennis Salisbury-AustriaSIA: What do you think makes your shop a great specialty shop?
Dennis: I think it is because we truly enjoy our customers and only cater to the snow sports and scuba diving in technical sports, people like dealing with experts, and you can have that if you become too diverse.

Also, we believe in a strong and loyal relationship between the suppliers, the reps and our store all working together to make retail successful.

SIA: With December being a record breaking month in sales, how has your shop done this season?
Dennis: We had the second best December on record and are on target to have one of our best ski seasons ever. The weather has helped, but most people shopping with us have told us that they are not missing another ski season while worrying about the economy. Others have not missed skiing vacations, but have put off buying new product. Now many of these people have to replace worn out product.

SIA: Highs and lows for 2010-2011?
Dennis: The highs have been a nice improvement on sales and seeing so many of our “old” customers again, as well as, many new customers this year. Certainly being chosen as regional retailer of the year was a high. Having a great staff is certainly a highlight I am thankful for.

For more information on Neptune Dive and Ski, visit