by Tim Hauserman ·
In a small town like Tahoe City, succeeding in business is a challenge. It requires perseverance and hard work to get through the off seasons, those winters with not enough snow, or the thick smoke
of a wildfire or two. It also requires a strong connection with the community and your clientele.
Brendan Madigan, owner of Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City, has taken that to heart. His vision for the connection between small business and the community includes using Alpenglow as a means of introducing people to the joys of Tahoe’s natural world.
Brendan skins above the West Shore on a back-country outing ·
Now 36, Madigan was raised in Virginia before playing professional soccer in the Netherlands for six years. Then, he transitioned from traditional sports to mountain aerobics: primarily running and back-country skiing. He moved to Tahoe in 2003 and started working at Alpenglow Sports, the outdoor clothing and gear shop that has been a focal point at the center of Tahoe City for 35 years. He became Alpenglow’s manager in 2007, and then took the scary leap to purchase the business from Don Fyfe in 2011.
“We approach the business with a community-minded business ethic,” Madigan says. “We have an allegiance to the people who have been coming here since long before I started working at Alpenglow, and we love this community and want to give back.”
One of the ways they give back is organizing a host of free and fun events focused on human-powered outdoor recreation. He created the Alpenglow Mountain Festival, which is two, 10-day long celebrations of mountain sports, one in the winter and one in the summer.
“The Alpenglow Mountain Festival came out of my desire to take the energy and vibe from the smaller events that we organized, and to make it a marquee event,” he said.
Brendan introduces a speaker during the Alpenglow Mountain Festival ·
In the winter, the focus is on cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and back-country skiing during the day, and inspiring movies and classes such as avalanche safety in the evening. In the summer, it is about hiking, running, interpretative walks and yoga, as well as night time presentations designed to get one excited to get outside the next day.
With both events, Madigan says that the focus is simple, “Allowing people to participate in healthy mountain sports that they might not have even tried. There is something for every ability level.”
With, few exceptions, the events are free and the goal is to make the Alpenglow Mountain Festival the “premier mountain lifestyle event in the country,” he says.
While a primary reason for the festival is to share a passion for sports in Tahoe, Madigan says that it also is “designed to give back to those who have supported us, and, of course, we hope to establish new customers and good will. I don’t think you can get somewhere better then here for human-powered sports. We are catering to them so they have a good experience, but not overwhelming the environment.”
Madigan sees that the pathway to success for small businesses in a world of mega stores with mega discounts is not to attempt to compete on price.
“There is a value on service and knowledge that you can’t put a dollar sign on. People really yearn for a face to face connection,” he says.
Brendan Madigan enjoys a powder day above Emerald Bay ·
Madigan served for five years on the board of the Tahoe City Downtown Association, serving for two years as its president. He joined the TCDA to help improve Tahoe City and served as a young voice who added a new vibrancy to the discussions about how Tahoe City could move forward. While he is proud of his other accomplishments on the board, he feels that by far his greatest achievement was a personal one. It was while he was on the board that he met fellow board member Christin Hanna, owner of the Tahoe Youth Ballet. They married a little more than a year ago.
Brendan now serves on the North Tahoe Resort Association board, an organization that he says “is vital to bringing people to North Tahoe on a national and regional basis.” He says that his presence as a full-time, business-owning local on the board is important.
Whether it’s hitting the road at 5 a.m. to catch the back-country powder so that he can post a report for the rest of the hearty skiers to get the scoop, running a business that he can feel proud of or introducing folks to a sport that they have never tried, it’s about loving the beautiful place that is the Tahoe community, and being willing to share it with others.
For information on the Alpenglow Mountain Festival scheduled from Feb. 21 to 28, visit alpenglowsports.com.