February 4, 2023
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Biz Beat: Alpin Haus continues to expand recreation business

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Recreation retailer Alpin Haus will be expanding its Route 30 location as it looks to meet increased demand that intensified during and following the COVID pandemic.

“We’ve had such a demand over the years and it’s just been growing between here and the Clifton Park story and everything we’re doing in the Capital Region,” said company President Andy Heck. “We’re on a growth trajectory and the pandemic just took it to a whole different level. 

Recreation was one of the winners because they could do stuff outside safely with their families, they’re wasn’t a lot of options for vacation.”

To meet the need the company is expanding its location in Amsterdam by 15,000 square feet. 

Heck said the company owns the plaza it’s located in and had been operating a health club next to the company’s store on Route 30 in Amsterdam, but decided to shut that down in order to provide more space to the retail store. 

Alpin Haus, a family-owned business, was started by Bud Heck in 1964 with John Daly. Daly sold his interests in the company to Andy and Greg Heck in 1994. The company began as a ski equipment retailer, but has naturally progressed over the years to include other recreational options, including RVs, snowmobiles, boats and pools, Andy Heck said.

The company will also be building a new store on Route 86 in Wallkill, a town in Orange County.

“It’s been in the works for awhile, but we just closed on the land this week,” Heck said Wednesday.

He said this will replace the Port Jervis store, which the company has outgrown. 

A lot of the growth is due recently to the people wanting to camp, buy pools and RVs or take up skiing and other outdoor sports during COVID because school sport programs were shut down and people couldn’t travel for a while.

While school sport teams are playing again and travel is back up, people still want to enjoy camping, their own pools and hobbies like skiing that they picked up during the pandemic. 

“Every year we’ve been kind of growing a little bit but we just kind of saw all of a sudden it was a whole new enthusiasm for people being outside in every aspect,” Heck said.

Heck said he believes that the family-oriented approach to the business is what has helped it continue to grow over the years and be recognized in the recreational industry. 

“We focus heavily on that,” he said. “I think we pick up on that [more] maybe than some other businesses that do what we do because it’s so important to us,” he said. 

Heck said almost everyone in his family has some recreational hobby, including skiing.

“We have our family ski days and things like that,” he said.

The company has six locations between the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and New Jersey.

Recently, the company was named a RVBusinessmagazine top 50 Blue Ribbon Dealer and has been recognized in the past, including being named Snow Sports Retailer of the Year; National Top Quality RV Dealer of the Year; Ski-Doo District Dealer of the Year; and has been selected multiple times as one of the Best Places to Work by Capital District Business Review, according to a prior press release from the company.

“It feels really good and gratifying, especially for our team that has worked so hard for the last couple of years,” he said. “Like everybody, we’ve done well with staffing, but we’re running just a little bit short on staffing, but not like awful. So, they’ve all had to work harder and I think it’s a little feather in their cap to be recognized by our industries and amongst our peers.”

The company employs around 200 people.

Heck said he, like many other companies, are watching to see how the current economic climate will play out and the impact it could have on business. 

“We’re worried like everyone else because we’re a consumer discretionary, so that’s one of the things that people will cut back on is what we sell when times are more challenging so we’re definitely watching that. At the same time we know that if we’re talking economics people have jobs, so that’s what’s different about this economic cycle. Americans love to vacation, like to do stuff, so we think business will be good but we just don’t know.”

Heck also said you have to factor in that many people took up outdoor hobbies that they don’t want to give up. 

“Whether it’s people that would be considered white collar or blue collar, we’ve seen everybody wants to be outside,” he said.

Heck said that they’ve actually begun selling ice skates as some municipalities provide rinks to the public. 

He said while they’ve been expanding they still face challenges with supply meeting demand. It’s an issue they’ve dealt with since things began picking up during the pandemic. 

“The good was that so many people wanted what we had, but the bad was at times we didn’t know when we we’re going to get stuff or if we were going to get stuff at all,” he said. 

He said going into this winter it’s been better, but there are some things they’re still having a hard time getting. 

“Because a lot of what we do is kind of world-wide, on the ski side of the business we’re not getting some junior ski boots this year–they didn’t build them for America,” he said. “We’re not getting some cross-country skis because they did not build them enough for the world.”

Heck said they work with customers to find other options. 

Although there’s been challenges there’s also been surprises, such as older adults getting back into skiing, Heck said. 

“People even in their 50s and 60s are taking skiing back up,” he said. “That’s been kind of exciting.” 

He said many people have come in with grins and a child-like giddy excited to get back into something they did growing up.

“Either they’re doing it for their kids or grandkids and that’s kind of cool,” Heck said.

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