Katmandu: the end of the beginning of an era 

Iconic store closes village location Today, but developing space at Function Junction

click to enlarge END OF AN ERA Katmandu will close up shop on Jan. 31, but plans to reopen in Function.
  • END OF AN ERA Katmandu will close up shop on Jan. 31, but plans to reopen in Function.

As of Jan. 31, 2013, Katmandu will be closing its village store. But what started out as a "going out of business" story has become a story of rebirth. In the month or so since the word got out that Katmandu was closing up shop, owner Rusty Long has had a change of heart — partly prompted by the encouragement of loyal local customers and staff, and partly because he's been his own man so long he's not keen on the idea of going to work for someone else.

"I need a job, and I'd rather give myself one than look for one," he joked over a pint at the Dublin Gate — ostensibly because it's Robbie Burns Day, but more to fortify himself before an afternoon of attacking walls at what will become Katmandu's new location in Function Junction.

He's also looking to take his eclectic mix of products online and to branch out into new areas he's keeping under wraps for now.

"It's not about money for me," he said. "I have no desire to be wealthy. For me, success is about the lifestyle, working with good people and having fun doing it. When the store can't sustain itself it can't sustain that lifestyle.

"In the last six years I lost my house, sales kept going down. I tried to keep my attitude up but sales were so slow I decided I was going to close at the end of September.

"Instead, I sat down with staff and we said, 'we can do this.' We went to the Vegas accessory show to look at new products, we rallied the staff, we repainted the store and changed the layout and got nothing but compliments about it... we diversified, we advertised. And sales dropped 30 per cent."

While it's been difficult personally, Long said the decision to move to Function was an easy one to make.

"The support from customers and staff has been quite overwhelming actually. And believe me, I don't want to close, that's not what I want to do — I'm further in debt because of this (decision to keep the store going) than anything else. If we made enough to keep people working, to keep the store running and allow me to live I'd be happy, but it's taking me backwards."

If anything, change has been the only constant in Katmandu's 20-year history. Long worked for 20 years in the restaurant business before he got into retail, launching a consignment store in Function Junction in 1993 with diverse products like sweaters, power tools and stereo equipment in the window. Long moved to the village in 1996, soon after the North Village and Marketplace were completed. The new Katmandu was primarily a snowboard and mountain bike store that was wildly successful with four or five staff members working at any given time.

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