It's a deceptively simple adage: Find what you love and turn it into a business. But, as the three young partners behind Windward Boardshop, Chicago's boutique snowboarding shop, found out, passion for the slopes alone doesn't necessarily translate into solid business acumen.
With sales up at the 35-year-old business, Windward's owners Chris Currier, Tony Anasenes and Jess Bell made an ill-advised decision: They opened a second location in an upscale neighborhood outside of the city. Partners Chris and Tony thought this move would drive up sales even further and bring in profit from an affluent demographic. But the combination of a high rent with low foot traffic actually ended up creating a massive money pit that threatened to swallow Windward whole.
When The Profit's Marcus Lemonis arrived on the scene, he had to find a way to stop Windward from hemorrhaging funds. Though sales were up at its main shop in the city, the business was being weighed down by stagnant inventory. To help Windward course correct from its self-inflicted tailspin, Marcus issued swift commands to the team: focus on products with high margins, liquidate excess inventory and shutter the Highland Park location.
And to remedy the financial drain the Highland Park location had taken on the company, Marcus did something only someone of his caliber could: He bought the building, effectively freeing the three partners from their damaging lease commitment.
With the Highland Park money pit closed, Marcus then made a radical change to the storied Chicago boutique -- its name. The result? W82, a hip-sounding brand name that manages to reference the store's legacy while simultaneously breaking it from the past.
After revamping the look and layout of the sole Chicago storefront, Marcus doubled down on W82's core customer by setting up two dedicated snowboarding and skateboarding departments. He also pushed the company a bit outside its comfort zone by opening up spaces for footwear, electronics (so customers could make impulse buys for things like drones) and a fully fleshed out swimwear department.
Since W82's Marcus Lemonis-makeover, staff says the day-to-day of the business is mostly unchanged; it's behind the scenes where Marcus has really made an impact. With his oversight, staffers have been placed in positions that take advantage of their specific expertise and skill sets. Case in point: Jess, who'd been pigeonholed as a store manager, now acts as buyer for W82, a position Chris had previously held.
"Going into this process, I tried to be very open," says Jess. "… And I feel like we hit it off pretty early on and I got a really good feeling about Marcus. And I felt pretty comfortable with him."
As for the future, the team says it's looking to leverage Marcus' diverse brand portfolio for some unique marketing experiences.
"I see the company just growing in new categories that we didn't think we'd ever get in," says Tony. "So, from an online perspective, I see that getting much deeper. [From] an in-store perspective, I see us being able to focus on marketing strategies that we didn't necessarily have the means to do before with the help of some of Marcus' teams [and] Marcus' other companies."
With Marcus on board, it's safe to say, the W82 of today's pulled a complete 180.