Sepp Kober has worked at Freestyle (Charlottesville, VA) since the mid 1990’s, before purchasing it in 2000. Now Freestyle is owned and operated by Sepp and Measi Kober. His love and passion for the sport of skiing was passed on to him through his late father. Sepp Kober Sr is regarded as the Father of Southern Skiing and is honored for this as a member of the National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
Sepp Jr. began skiing at the young age of 15 months, honing his skills to later race competitively, instruct skiing and coach racing. From growing up on skis it was natural that he would become a retail purveyor introducing many to the sport he loves. Over the 28 year history of Freestyle and the last decade of the Kobers’ leadership, Freestyle has focused its efforts on providing the finest products and quality service that are unrivaled. We caught up with Sepp recently to get his thoughts on being a specialty retailer and taking honors as the 2010 SIA Southeast Retailer of the Year Award winner.
SIA: Tell me a little about yourself, how did you get started in the industry? Why are you in this industry? What motivates you?
Sepp: Skiing has been part of my life since I was born! My late father, Sepp Kober, was involved in the industry in many facets. He ran a local ski area and was also a sales rep, so growing up in that environment gave me my start. His love and passion for the sport was instilled in me at an early age.
SIA: How important is marketing to specialty shops?
Sepp: Marketing is very important to a specialty shop! I think one of the biggest challenges a specialty retailer faces is figuring out what type of marketing is the best. Funds are limited so you have to spend them wisely and Social Media has certainly changed the dynamics.
SIA: What does winning the 2010 SIA Southeast Retailer of the Year Award mean to you?
Sepp: Winning the retailer of the year award is an honor that represents our passion, commitment and dedication to wintersports.
SIA: What’s the most rewarding thing about being a specialty retailer?
Sepp: Having a customer stop you out on the slopes and say thanks!
SIA: What has been the single best-selling product/category over the season?
Sepp: Helmets still remain very strong for us, as well as boot sales.
SIA: What do you think makes your shop a great specialty shop?
Sepp: The ability to recognize and react rapidly to trends is key.
SIA: What kind of relationship do you have with your community? Do you give back or sponsor any local events/organizations?
Sepp: We do a number of events on snow; from putting on a skiercross/boardercross series to doing our own on-snow demos. We also do a fund raiser annually for a local Adaptive Sports program as well as a coat drive for less fortunate children in the community.
SIA: With December and January being record breaking months in sales, how has your shop done this season?
Sepp: We had a very good preseason and start to the winter. Things have leveled off, but it has been a good season.
SIA: What was your shop’s biggest obstacle in the 2010/11 season and what was a highlight?
Sepp: Inventory management.
Freestyle, founded in 1983, is a family owned full service ski and snowboard specialty retailer. Freestyle has two stores, focused on winter sport clothing and equipment, located in Charlottesville, VA and at Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition, Freestyle also operates an online retail store at Freestyleonline.com. In the warmer months, Freestyle focuses their business on competition swim, skateboarding and summer lifestyle apparel. They operate a third summer seasonal store on Lake Anna, VA that specializes in wakeboards, water skis and accessories.