Schaefer Outfitter moving on
Steamboat Western wear marketer heading to New Mexico
February 8, 2008
Steamboat Springs — The owners of a small Steamboat Springs business with an international client list and a natural fit in Steamboat are moving to New Mexico.
Rick and Lynn Grant are packing up their inventory at Schaefer Outfitter this month. The company, with Steamboat ties that go back 30 years, designs and markets authentic Western wear. The Grants and two employees fill catalog orders from a warehouse and a small suite of offices in the Copper Ridge Business Park on Steamboat’s west side. They have customers from Germany to Japan.
For almost a decade, their annual catalog has been photographed at Routt County ranches. They’ve used rugged local models such as Don Silva, Bill Montague and the Iacovetto clan to model their authentic Western wear.
Their reasons for leaving have to do with the cost of doing business in Steamboat and the difficulty they’ve encountered getting a niche clothing line manufacturer domestically.
“Our expenses will be half of what they are in Steamboat,” Rick Grant said. “We’ll save $13,000 a month.”
Lynn Grant said they plan to reinvest the savings in the marketing and promotion needed to take their company to a new level. Her role is to track finances and order fulfillment while Rick tends to marketing and product development.
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“It is sad to see a business like this leave, but it does not really surprise me,” local economic development expert Scott Ford said. “It is likely that very little could have been done to retain this business here.”
A strong motivation for moving to southern New Mexico is the fact that in 2007 the Grants purchased their own sewing plant in El Paso, Texas. Grant said it was the only way to take control of production and continue to sell rugged cowboy and cowgirl shirts, vests, coats and dusters that are made in the U.S.
Rick Grant said his garments previously were produced under contract in sewing shops scattered from Colorado’s Front Range to El Paso.
“As more and more clothing companies moved manufacturing offshore, the shops were losing clients until it was just us,” he said.
As a result, the owners of the sewing shops were asking Schaefer Outfitter to pay for their orders before they were even shipped, instead of 30 days after receipt of the garments.
“We went from 30 net to 5 net, to them asking us to overnight checks so they could make payroll,” Grant said.
The uncertain conditions at the sewing shops made it difficult for Schaefer Outfitter to stay fully stocked on its most popular items.
“I do not think that the challenges this business has been facing are unique to the Steamboat Springs area,” Ford said. “This is an industry where the competitors are numerous and the margins are small and getting smaller.”
The predecessor of Schaefer Outfitter was founded in Steamboat in the late 1970s. Rocky Mountain Featherbed was a local institution producing down vests for skiers that featured a full leather western yoke. That was an era when the ski instructors at Mount Werner still wore cowboy hats, and the vests were part of the local scene.
Founder Cub Schaefer moved to Jackson, Wyo., and established Schaefer Outfitter. The young company hit a growth spurt in the 1980s when full-length western dusters became outrageously popular among urban cowboys. Later, a group of investors brought the company back to Steamboat under the successful Soda Creek brand.
Rick Grant came to Steamboat in 1990 to reinvigorate Schaefer Outfitter and left in 1995 for Evergreen, where he worked for the Australian Outback Collection. After two years, the Grants went out on their own and marketed a line of Western wear and embroidered ball caps to rodeo fans. They acted on an invitation to purchase Schaefer Outfitter in 2001, and returned to Steamboat.
Now, they are moving to southern New Mexico, where they will shoot future catalogs at historic ranches.
“I can’t wait to get down there and begin developing new products right at the factory,” Rick Grant said.