For those who are lucky enough to call the Inland Northwest home, life entails a fantastic four-season climate, complete with lakes, rivers, mountains and a region that’s virtually bursting at the seams with outdoor adventure possibilities. With all of this recreational opportunity in the region, it’s no wonder that several outdoors-based businesses have chosen to call it their home as well. That’s definitely the case with these three local businesses that specialize in the production of fun – or at least the tools that help people maximize their fun. Having a spectacular backyard to product-test in, each of these area businesses has established strong roots in the region, as well as strong roots in their perspective areas of fun.
Spokane Valley, Washington / (509) 928-9611 / www.gsioutdoors.com
GSI Outdoors specializes in outdoor cookware. A market leader in the category, GSI makes everything from ultralight backpacking cook-sets to heavy-duty, enamel tableware. GSI was founded in 1985 when
Don, Ian and Kathy Scott (siblings) saw an opportunity to bring blue speckled enamelware back into the outdoors market. “The West was settled with the traditional enamelware of the pioneers, and this heritage had not survived into our present day outdoor market,” says Kurt Gauss, GSI’s Director of Research and Development.
Through humble beginnings, the Scotts built up their family business with a continual focus on providing secure employment, living wages and benefits for their employees. Relocating the business from San Diego to Spokane, GSI Outdoors continued to experience substantial growth while still maintaining a commitment to its employees and the local community by bringing more technologically advanced, quality designed camping products to market.
Some might wonder why an outdoors company would choose to focus on cookware. “It started out with enamelware pots, pans, cups, plates and bowls which helped us gain a strong market position and help build the backbone of the company. From there we expanded to all the products we offer today and many more to come in the future,” says Gauss. “Moving forward, we want to focus on worldwide distribution while concentrating on the brand, design, manufacturing, sales and marketing. It’s our goal to offer an innovative array of outdoor cookware and a whole range of eating and drinking products that are technical, innovative and fun,” he adds. GSI products are available at many local outdoor retailers.
Liberty Lake, Washington / www.lakesbrand.com
“Don’t text…Don’t call…I’m at the Lake” is the slogan of Lakes Brand apparel company that specializes in those key, summertime lounge-ware pieces: hats, t-shirts and flip-flops. Founded in 2012, the unique design of each Lakes Brand item is inspired by woodsy, summer-cabin themes symbolizing the waterfront, outdoors lifestyle that so many of us enjoy here. “We had always wanted to create our own brand, and we thought what better way than to focus on one of our favorite things: the lake,” says Zac Scott, who founded the business with Todd Zyph in Liberty Lake, Wash.
“We’ve both had so many great memories growing up on the lake, and we wanted to create a brand that reflected that lifestyle. We founded Lakes Brand because we saw a niche in the market for this type of theme for both t-shirts and flip flops. We saw so many apparel companies focusing on the ocean and surf lifestyle, and we wanted to do something that was different and unique to the Inland Northwest,” he adds.
With a solid and growing local fan-base, the future is looking bright for Lakes Brand. “Ideally, we see Lakes as putting a real focus on soft goods by expanding our t-shirt line, while adding hoodies and sweats for sitting by the camp fire. We plan on adding board shorts and continuing with some new hats as well. As we grow, we hope to work more closely with the community while putting on some really cool local events on the lake,” says Scott. You can buy Lakes Brand hats, shirts, and flip-flops from their website at www.lakesbrand.com.
Stillwater SUP (Fun Unlimited)
Post Falls, Idaho / 208-620-9050 / www.stillwatersup.com
The interest in stand up paddleboarding has skyrocketed throughout the entire country in recent years. North Idaho and Eastern Washington are areas that have been blessed with an endless array of lakes and rivers. That’s the very reason that Keith and Cara Quien decided to start Stillwater SUP, a local manufacturer of stand up paddleboards and paddles. Stillwater, a division of their waterfront rental business, Fun Unlimited, produces boards that reflect the core values of the Northwest, with an emphasis on simplicity and functionality.
“Four years ago, we were fed up with the nine-to-five doldrums of working at jobs we weren’t passionate about. Tired of dreading each Monday morning, we decided that we were going to do something that we loved. We sat down at our kitchen table and started Fun Unlimited,” says Keith Quien. “Fueled mostly by support from our friends and family and a lot of hope, drive, and big ideas, we branched out to start Stillwater SUP,” he adds.
With the advantage of having their own proprietarily designed boards, Fun Unlimited has been able to create a stable, user friendly SUP package that is not only well suited to their rental customer base but great for anyone looking for an entry into the sport. “Building our own SUPs started out of the necessity to have really great boards that paddle well at a reasonable price. Since we are also a rental company, we wanted to build boards that are good for beginners too,” says Quien.
What they found is that inflatable paddle boards are a great way to introduce people to the sport because they are safe, stable, and easy to transport. “Once people progress, we then graduate them to our solid-core fiberglass boards,” says Quien. “Ultimately though, we are very proud to build boards made to paddle the still-water lakes and rivers of the Northwest,” he adds. You can arrange SUP rentals from Fun Unlimited at www.cdasports.com or purchase a Stillwater paddleboard and paddle at www.stillwatersup.com. //