Tricia Jackson, age 32, grew up in Carbondale, Colo., a town about the size of McCall that sits roughly 30 miles downriver from Aspen. Skiing and other outdoor mountain sports are in her DNA.
While Tricia was attending college in Colorado, a friend traveled to McCall for a race at Brundage. Upon her return, the friend told Tricia, “That’s a town you’d enjoy.” After graduating with a degree in education, Tricia took a position teaching third grade, but upon seeing a photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand, wanderlust struck and with some trepidation, Tricia resigned from her first teaching job.
At the end of that school year, in June 2011, Tricia arranged to travel to New Zealand and work as a nanny, staying for a year. Three months before her departure date, she met Scott Jackson. As Tricia shared her trip plans with Scott, he surprised her by giving her a travel guide on New Zealand that he already had. Scott, also recently graduated from college with a degree in geography, was working at Aspen in hospitality and didn’t have plans for that summer, so Tricia suggested he come visit New Zealand. He did, flying in and buying a van so he could travel around the country.
Meanwhile, Tricia’s position as nanny wasn’t what she hoped, but she did love the town she was living in, a place called Wanaka with its own lake and nearby ski area. After roughly a month on the job, Tricia quit to join Scott and they took up working in the vineyards, doing migrant labor winterizing the vines. With the money they saved, they bought ski passes and spent several months touring and snowboarding the country by van. At the end of the winter, they moved into a farm house and began working at “The Store,” a remote, ocean-side restaurant. Tricia worked in the restaurant and Scott as a landscaper in charge of maintaining the English-style garden and grounds. “It looked like Alice in Wonderland,” says Tricia. “The bushes were shaped, the grass looked like it had been cut by hand. The gardens were enormous; the work was full-time for Scott. He had full autonomy. It was a blast, a fun place to be. On our time off, we explored the island.”
When their year in New Zealand was up, they returned to Colorado and mused over what they’d like to do for work. One idea was to buy a food truck and travel to music festivals across the western states. Once they realized the hurdles of meeting all the various health codes and restrictions, they admitted the idea would work only if they stayed in one state. Because they both loved skiing, they spent a winter at Snowmass skiing and working hospitality jobs as they pondered their future. After marrying at a campground in the Glenwood Canyon in 2013, and knowing they couldn’t afford to live in Colorado, they hit the road looking for a place to start fresh.
Their travels soon brought them to McCall. They had narrowed their choices down to McCall and Whitefish, Montana. Tricia remembered her college friend’s comment about the town, and as they drove from Missoula to McCall, they loved what they saw. “We were in awe as we drove over Lolo Pass and along the Lochsa River. In McCall, it was the lake and rivers, the nice people, the mountain bike trails. Everything we wanted was here, in a nice package,” says Tricia. For Scott, the appeal of McCall included having resort amenities, like the lake and skiing, with a small-town feel.
Agreeing that they wanted a permanent address (even though part of Tricia still thinks she’d like to live in New Zealand), the couple decided they were done living on the road and chose McCall. Their first jobs were at Shore Lodge, which provided them an apartment to live in. Having settled on a place to dig some roots, they now had to decide how they’d make a living for the long term. Tricia found work as a teacher, teaching grades one and three for three years at Barbara Morgan Elementary School in McCall, and for two years after that, worked part time teaching Spanish to grades K through five on a grant, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
At the same time Tricia was teaching, she and Scott decided to open a sports-themed consignment store. Tricia had seen such a store in her home town of Carbondale, and she remembers noting how much people in the Carbondale community enjoyed utilizing the store. After their first summer in McCall, Scott decided he preferred self-employment, and remembering their conversations with the consignment store owner in Carbondale they opted for the sports store model, with people bringing their gear to be sold on consignment. McCall Sports Exchange opened in November 2013 in its initial location next to Pat’s Glass. “Getting the store up and running was surprisingly smooth,” says Scott, age 32. “Luckily, the community embraced the idea much more quickly than I anticipated. However, there has been lots of learning and fine-tuning along the way.” The store is now located at 802 N. Third Street, just down the street for their first location.
“It’s fun to support local families, seeing them be able to outfit themselves and their children year after year,” says Tricia. “I love that by making gear affordable, it encourages people to try sports they might not otherwise, like hockey.” At first, everything they sold was brought in on consignment, mostly winter sports gear like snowboards, skis and boots. Soon they added equipment that they rented out during the summer months, such as SUP boards, kayaks, and bicycles. The Jacksons looked at other consignment store models for guidance as they grew and expanded, figuring out how to ride the seasonal waves of demand. For example, in addition to the used goods, they began offering clothes – such as cross-country ski gear – that were new but bought at close-out prices. They added swimsuits – new, of course – because people kept asking for them. They now sell NRS gear such as dry bags and river straps, new and used bicycles and new paddle boards. “Whatever people ask for, we try to find an affordable way to provide it,” says Tricia. “I’m excited to continue to grow and evolve in order to fulfill the recreational needs of our community,” adds Scott.
Scott is the primary store guy. Scott thrives on discussing gear and the outdoors with customers. The Jacksons currently have one regular employee, Darren, who is a snowboarder and loves to travel. One of their first employees, Cooper, had a passion for disc golf and skateboarding and he helped the store expand into gear for those sports. Customers come in just to talk to Scott or Darren about gear. Tricia says that it’s Scott’s entrepreneurial spirit and business sense that allows the shop to succeed. The store’s space is maxed out and the inventory they carry is evolving, but they don’t plan on opening a second location.
The risks and ups and downs of business ownership and self-employment are not for everyone. For Tricia and Scott, the rewards outweigh the risks. “Our goal is to retire early, being able to continue enjoying the things we love. We work to keep what we have afloat while also making time to recreate,” says Tricia. They want the community to like McCall Sports Exchange, and they want to provide a service in return, allowing locals to find good outdoor gear at affordable prices. “The community relationship part of our business is huge for us,” says Tricia. And for Scott, “The best part is getting to know the locals through the store and being involved in the community of outdoor enthusiasts here.”
As long as they can both take days off midweek to play in the great outdoors that is McCall’s backyard, Tricia and Scott remain happy with their choice to live and operate a business in McCall, affording them a way to be part of and give back to the community they’ve adopted as home.[Cover photo, left to right: owners Scott and Tricia Jackson and employee Darren at the door of McCall Sports Exchange. All photos courtesy of McCall Sports Exchange.]