Exit Real World's new location will stock more gear for skaters and snowboarders
Retail is a numbers game, and Northwest 23rd Avenue Ñ where cash registers go ka-ching and the shop kids are movin' the merch Ñ is still numero uno. Slow retail days are about as common here as sightings of latte-sipping leprechauns.
That's why Missy Samiee, president of Exit Real World, is moving her skateboard and snowboard shop uptown. The business has operated on the edge of the Pearl District for four years. But Samiee, 34, has landed a far bigger, 2,600-square-foot space previously occupied by Shogun's Gallery. The gallery has moved north along 23rd into the spot where the 24-hour coffee shop Quality Pie once stood.
Exit Real World, which opens Wednesday in its new location at 206 N.W. 23rd Ave., is directly across the street from Urban Outfitters, a fashion/lifestyle store that attracts many of the same types of shoppers: freewheelin' young professionals with disposable income.
But unlike Urban Outfitters, Exit Real World is an Oregon-bred business.
Samiee, a tomboy who likes pink, started her company as a student project while she was earning her MBA at Willamette University in Salem. Her skater-husband, Jake Houswirth, 31, once worked for his wife at the Salem store and now helps run the company.
The couple employ 16 people in three Oregon stores; the third is on Mt. Hood. That's where skateboarders can find the best-selling brands Girl, Chocolate and Alien Workshop, all made hot by the pro boarders who use them. Sales were boosted further by Girl's promotional video, which plays at Exit Real World stores.
Besides selling gear and equipment, Exit Real World sponsors two skateboarding teams and operates two summer snowboarding camps at Government Camp on Mt. Hood.
Raised in Salem with four brothers, it probably was inevitable that Samiee would grow up to be an athlete. Her 9-month-old daughter, LuLu, is already drooling on a skateboard wheel.
Samiee, who does all of the store's buying, has retail in her veins. She worked in her dad's Shutterbug photography store while growing up. When she got into snowboarding in the early '90s, she couldn't find the equipment or sizes she needed.
Skate shops then, she says, could be daunting places. That's not the case at Exit Real World, where the staff is virtually attitude-free.
'We basically want it to be really friendly and comfortable,' Samiee says of her stores. And though the demographic is a bit older at the Portland store, the core customer base in Salem is 12- and 13-year-old girls.
The Portland store will expand its current clothing lines from functional sportswear lines Destroy, Roxy and Paul Frank to include casual street clothing from designers such as Ben Sherman.