Category Archives: Brad

Quarante: The 2012 OR Winter Market

Skiing in support of the Big City Mountaineers, aprés Outdoor Retailer.

This OR Winter Market was my fortieth Outdoor Industry tradeshow. I began going to the shows in the summer of 1991 (that year it was in Reno), and I’ve been at almost every one since. I missed one after having a serious bike wreck on the day before I was supposed to leave for the show.

So this was number “40,” for me, or “quarante” as they say in French. That’s a nice round number that makes me think. Continue reading

Classic Pemba Serves

It’s summer time! If you’re not outside on adventures or maxxed out doing Spring 2012 previews maybe you’re inside watching reruns. Am I right?

Here are some of Pemba Serves’ classic posts from Brad, Bryan, Janice, Pete and Steve to keep you occupied and to get us back to work!

Lessons of Xegar
Brad Werntz

“We spent ten days in Xegar. Every day, we watched it rain, waiting. Prior to our sojourn in Xegar, we spent ten days crossing Tibet on muddy roads, over landslides, through floods. We expected our gear to be waiting for us in Xegar, as it was sent from Beijing before us. Instead, we waited in Xegar for our gear, for ten days.”


Rock Climbing Risk
Bryan Kuhn

“There are old climbers, and there are bold climbers, but few old, bold climbers. I don’t know who said this, I’ve heard it attributed to dozens of climbers, and I tend to think of it a general understanding of the sport and what to expect as you age into it.”


Our Chicks ROCK!
Janice Ellefson

“Rock Climbing? Yeah I’d thought about it – A LOT. Brad and Vera and Boulders are just a stone’s throw away. Steve, my coworker here at PEMBA, is OBSESSED. Between these three, I have climbing power-houses all around me and yet I had not taken the plunge. I had never climbed before, except for a few stints at Boulders. Well, suddenly an opportunity came my way that I couldn’t pass up!”


So…sea kayaking doesn’t suck
Pete Witucki

“Without debating if a six-hour drive to Lake Superior is a ‘local recreation area,’ I have discovered that not only does sea kayaking not suck – I could actually see myself getting into this.”


Son of the Irish
Steve Schultz

“I learned more about climbing, trying hard and so much else that afternoon climbing with this mystery man. He took me around the Buttermilks showing me classics, must do’s, what not to do’s and future projects for me. He insisted that I needed a tour and that he was the man to do it. Off we went.”

A Million Miles From Monday

This past weekend I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. My wife and I packed up a big load of camping gear, grabbed the kids, and headed out to a nearby park to do some car-camping with some friends.

Only, we left the car at home. Yep, we went car-camping without the car.

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Opportunities: We Are Too Damn Old

Do me a favor: Look at this picture and strip out all that you know about who’s in it. Just for one second, look for WHAT is in the picture, and not WHO.

As a random individual, THIS is the face of the Outdoor Industry: He’s 45, male, makes a certain amount, has three kids, is married.

He’s our customer, he runs our companies, works in our retail stores. We see him at the crags, on the bike and running trails, on the slopes, and in the backcountry. He’s at the beach, in the mountains, and everywhere in between. As a slice of who and what we are, THIS is that guy.

What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you: This guy is too damn old to be the Average Active American.

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What Wisconsin Means For #OIBIZ

This is What Democracy Looks Like

I imagine that most of you have heard at least something about what’s been going on here in Wisconsin. I’ll spare you the details and the commentary. It’s a highly charged political situation, and we’re (trying hard to be) not about politics, here. If you’re interested in what’s really going on, friend me on Facebook for updates in real time. My posts have my own bias of course, but the national news isn’t covering what’s really happening.

I’ll just leave it at that.

Why I’m writing today: There’s something important happening here for us in #OIBIZ, too. We need to be very aware of how our industry can be caught up in similar challenges, very quickly. The situation here in Wisconsin could be repeated, and – I’m guessing – likely will be.

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Opportunities: Mea Culpa, Yet Let’s Get More Women Outdoors

Chicks Sighting at Ouray Ice Fest 2011 - Photo Courtesy Amy Jurries

We’re starting out Monday morning here in Madison with an apology – and a shout-out – to our colleagues and friends out at the Ouray Ice Park.

First the shout-out: We heard great things about the 16th Annual Ouray Ice Fest. You folks work your butt off to pull off this massive event, and it’s appreciated by those who attend, and vicariously by those who don’t. Thank you, so much.

Now, the apology: We went off half-cocked late last week upset about something that we misunderstood about the Ouray Ice Fest Competition. We owe Bill Whitt and the rest of the crew in Ouray a sincere apology for not getting the facts before we dove in with both feet. We’re really sorry that we added stress, drama, and intrigue on the eve of an event that’s already stressful, drama-filled, and intriguing (in all the best ways – but that’s still challenging.) Y’all didn’t need that and we hope you’ll forgive us.

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It’s 2011: Who Are You? Why Are You Here?

Good morning.

It’s 2011. You’re ready, right?

Well, that’s all right. Today is a holiday, tomorrow is Sunday, so you got a couple of days.

Today – on New Year’s Day – there are only two questions you need to answer:

Who am I?

Why am I here?

Wait, wait, wait: There’s no need for an existential crisis, so put down the phone; your spiritual advisor will still be there on Monday.

We’re here today to talk about business. Specifically, business in the outdoor industry – #OIBIZ, for short – but some of what we’re going to talk about will probably have general application, also. And – come to think of it – you may want to book time with your spiritual advisor on Monday. We’re gonna go deep.

Here goes…

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Commuter Therapy

I was in a cruddy mood yesterday, until I got on my bike.

It was snowing here in Madison, and while I was out running errands I was reminded of the simple joys of being outside. Normally, by this time of the season I’ve been out each day taking the kids to and from daycare, at least. But the youngest is in kindergarten, and that means he rides the bus along with his older sister. And their oldest sister can’t commute by bike from our house. (Or bus, for that matter, but that’s another story.)

And I’ve been traveling, a LOT. So today was my first time outside on the bike in the thick of winter weather. Here’s what I remembered:

  • Snow on my face makes me feel alive.
  • The sound of studded tires in the snow makes me smile.
  • No matter how cold it gets, it’s never all that cold.
  • Simple challenges – like staying upright on a moving bicycle in fresh snow and old ice – are engaging, and they bring focus by pushing all else out of the mind.
  • Winter cycling really is a better way to get around; just ask all the cars I left behind.

I stopped in a median to take a picture of the two-mile long traffic jam I rode beside. I was home a lot quicker than any of those poor suckers stuck in their cars.

And that made me feel better, too.

(Oh yeah, I’m not above feeling a little smug from time to time…)

The PEMBAway: What’s In A Name

Serendipity strikes often in the oddest of places. It was a remarkable piece of luck – it seems now in retrospect – that the name “Pemba Serves” came to me somewhat out of the blue while I was pinned down in my tent during a multi-day storm in the Alaska Range.

Between melting water, digging out the tent, reading, and sleeping, I had been journaling about a business that I was thinking about starting. In those years, I ran the newsletter and related promotions at Erehwon Mountain Outfitter. I thought then that – perhaps – outdoor retail stores all over might want a similar service. In this way, PEMBA was originally conceived of as a marketing and consulting business.

While PEMBA still operates as if we are a marketing and a consulting business, explaining the “how” and “why” of this is not the topic of the day. Likewise – yeah – it’s a funny name and we’re not going to explain it here right now (although we touch on it elsewhere.)

At the moment, we got other fish to fry… Continue reading

The PEMBAway: What The Mirror Said Back

As part of our ongoing PEMBAway discussion, we revisit where we’ve come from and why we’re here. (No, not in a metaphysical sense…) Here’s the story of what happened here at PEMBA after a frank conversation with The Man In The Mirror. This one goes out to all of the hard-working #OIBIZ sales reps. Enjoy…

It’s a sad little secret of our existence, but we sales reps are paid to waste our lives. Nobody ever wants to mention – also – that our businesses are tremendously inefficient.

We’re not supposed to tell anybody either of these things. It’s in the Universal Rep Manual and everything.

Or maybe it’s in the Rep Code. I forget which.

(Somewhere from a darkened showroom in the Northwest, ninjas have been dispatched to kill me in my sleep and make it look natural…)

The sad reality is that most sales reps are – most of the time –working really hard doing absolutely necessary work that doesn’t pay the bills. We’re managing samples, balancing our books, working on reports, or (most, most often) in transition traveling from one place to another.

Your sales rep isn’t available to take your call? They’re probably loading/unloading the van.

Reps are always loading/unloading the van.

It’s true.

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