BRISTOL - To survive as a local business, itâ€™s necessary to find a balance between online and in-store sales, explained Bill Gonsalves, owner of Bobâ€™s Sports Chalet.
As his wife Belinda and son Brendan organized new inventory, he explained that he grew up on a Chippens Hill in Bristol.
The business was originally founded by Bob Abrams in 1964, and he named it Bobâ€™s Chalet Ski and Snow, said Gonsalves, adding that the store was located on Route 6 until November of last year when they moved to Pine Street.
â€śThis is a 52-year-old family-owned business and when my son hits 30 years old, my wife and I will turn it over to him,â€ť Gonsalves said.
â€śWe still own the old building on Route 6 and donâ€™t know what do with it, so we use it as a warehouse. The move was a big jump in size, but weâ€™ve already outgrown this building, because we changed the name to Bobâ€™s Sports Chalet a while ago and thereâ€™s a lot more than just ski and snowboard products now. We even rent out ski and snowboard equipment now.â€ť
â€śThe business is adapting,â€ť explained Gonsalves, adding that the business became a â€śfour-season operationsâ€ť about seven years ago.
It used to close from May to July during the off-season, but now the business is open throughout the year with nine employees handling the day-to-day operations of the store and online orders.
Gonsalves explained that the store is in a â€śfull transition periodâ€ť to not only be a ski and snowboard shop, but to offer more year-around products to adapt with changing consumer trends in store and online.
â€śWe are still a specialty shop and do fittings, bindings and a lot of things that canâ€™t be done on the internet,â€ť Gonsalves said.
â€śThere are a lot of online sales because thatâ€™s how things sell now, and upstairs is where we package and ship online orders,â€ť he said. â€śHowever, people over the age of 30 still like to touch, feel and try something on before buying it, so they come into the store.â€ť
Gonsalves noted that even though millennials are online shippers, he has put his efforts into both online and retail sales because specialty shops and boutiques provide a more personal experience.
â€śI think boutiques and specialty shops could flourish again. They have the ability to offer products not commonly found other places, which is what makes a boutique a boutique,â€ť Gonsalves said. â€śThe shopping local movement helps with in-store sales. We see a lot of local customers, but also a lot of customers from all around Connecticut.â€ť
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at .