Straightline owners plan to make the most of inconvenient situation this spring |

Straightline owners plan to make the most of inconvenient situation this spring

— One of Steamboat Springs’ longest tenured retail businesses, Straightline Outdoor Sports, is moving April 1 from its permanent location at the corner of Eighth and Lincoln in the Nelson Building, a block west at 907 Lincoln Ave. But not for long. Brothers Brett and Bruce Lee hope to be back in the historic building at 744 Lincoln Ave. by the second week in June, following renovations.

Straightline will remain open at its current location until the first of April but has already occupied its temporary home where Brett’s wife, Christine Lee, says she is already exceeding her sales targets with seasonal sale merchandise.

The Lees have operated Straightline for 34 years and need to clear out of their flagship store long enough this spring for crews working for Tyke Pierce Construction on behalf of landlord Steve Nelson to install new structural steel beams in the ceiling. In order for that to happen, the sporting goods store has to strip everything to the walls, Brett Lee said.

Some retailers would be peevish, even depressed, over having to temporarily abandon their store for eight or nine weeks and move their merchandise and fixtures not once, but twice. But the Lees are seizing upon the disruption as an opportunity to rejuvenate their store.

“We’ll put in new carpet, refresh the wood floors and make it brand new again,” Brett said. “We’ve had such a great relationship with Steve over the years, and I really think this is the best location in town. We’re even on the sunny side of the street, which makes a big difference in winter.”

The Nelson Building, owned by Steve and his brother John Nelson, was built in 1939 to house a new Safeway grocery just as the Yampa Valley was trying to shake off the effects of the Great Depression. The building was added to the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places in January 2010.

The Lee brothers live the hunting and fishing lifestyle evidenced in some of their product lines, including strong-selling archery equipment. And while Straightline is very much a store that emphasizes technical outdoor clothing and equipment for people who don’t hunt and fish, the store already has a significant number of taxidermy mounts on the buildings high walls. That includes a full cougar mount (harvested by Bruce) that attracts customers by word of mouth.

When the remodel is complete, the existing uneven ceiling in the shop will be uniformly tall and decorated with even more trophies, Brett promised.

“We’re aiming for a mini Cabela’s look,” he said.

The store last underwent major changes in June 2011 when Embellishments moved out of the space behind Straightline as the owners of that popular import/gift store focused on the recently acquired Steamboat Art Company. The owners of Straightline grabbed the additional 1,600 square feet and quickly used it to modernize their profitable ski rental business.

Brett and Christine Lee both pointed out how much difference moving two blocks down Lincoln has already made in terms of shopper habits. They have always been committed to being open during evening hours (9 p.m. on weekends in high season). And now the new location, which they are calling SL-2, is actually busier at night than during the day. SL-2 is situated in a block where Steamboat’s prime retail district transitions to more of a restaurant district.

“I start getting busy at 2 or 3 in the afternoon,” Christine said, and like the flagship store, they are open until 8 p.m. when diners are in the mood to walk off their meals and often tempted to do a little shopping.

The Lees typically use a storage unit to house merchandise destined for sidewalk sales, but SL-2 is doing well enough that they are toying with the idea of maintaining a second location if the rent is right, either at 907 Lincoln or somewhere else. They aren’t certain if they would peel off a merchandise segment from their primary store or continue to offer marked-down merchandise at the satellite store.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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