After 21 years in the retail business, Jayson Faulkner is calling it quits. The Escape Route will continue as Whistler's premier outdoor store, but without its founder at the helm.
"It wasn't an easy decision to make," said Faulkner. "I always thought I'd be there until the end. The decision hasn't come without reservations, after twenty years it's become a part of who I am."
Faulkner announced the news to his staff and friends in mid-August. Squamish resident James Retty, Faulkner's business partner since 2002, has purchased full ownership of the company. The ownership includes the recently-opened Squamish store.
When asked what his reasons were for leaving, Faulkner replied: "There comes a time when you start to look for new challenges. Not that I didn't face my share of challenges over the years running an independent retail store. As odd as it feels to move on from The Escape Route, I'm confident that it's the right decision for me."
The original Escape Route opened in February 1990 on the village stroll in what is now the Crystal Lodge. It was the first outdoor specialist store to open in Whistler. When Faulkner and his original partner Tom Duguid first opened doors, they were low on stock but well received by the community.
"We wanted to open a shop where hikers and climbers could buy mountain gear," Jayson recounts.
"At the time most shops were catering to mountain biking and team sports like baseball.
"It was a good opportunity to stimulate the local mountain community and get people equipped. All the money we'd saved had to go towards the lease, so our inventory was pretty low. In that first year, whenever we sold something we'd be left with a blank spot on the wall."
In 1993 the decision was made to move to the current location in the Marketplace Lodge. Over its history The Escape Route became a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, spawning such organizations as the Whistler Alpine Guides Bureau and the Whistler Section of the Alpine Club of Canada. Ski mountaineers such as Eric Pehota, Trevor Petersen and Johnny "Foon" Chilton all bought equipment from the store before setting out on expeditions in the early nineties. There are plenty of Whistler residents who have a happy history with The Escape Route.
"So many of our staff over the years used Escape Route as a launch pad for their careers, whether it been moving into guiding or taking jobs working for the brands that we carry," said Faulkner.
"Seeing our staff move onto bigger and better things has been a point of pride for us."
Jayson Faulkner will leave a lasting legacy in Whistler with The Escape Route, one of the few remaining independent retailers in the village. As he winds down his involvement with the company, he is on the lookout for a new career challenge.
"Nothing is set, but there are opportunities here in Whistler and others that may even draw me overseas to Europe or even China," he said.
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