Marmot Mountain Works to close after 36 years

Marmot Mountain Works will close its doors in March after 36 years in Berkeley. Photos: Tracey Taylor

Specialist wilderness equipment store Marmot Mountain Works, which opened on Adeline Street in Berkeley in 1976, will close its doors permanently in March.

Founder and owner Lock Miller said changes in consumer buying habits and the state of the economy have led to a steady decline in sales over the past 5-10 years. The lack of a snow season so far this year was the final straw, he said. Marmot’s 12-strong staff will all lose their jobs.

“The internet is like a whole stack of stores in one corner and people go there to look for the best prices,” Miller said. “It doesn’t help that people are playing golf up in Tahoe right now.”

Tom Purcell, who has managed the store for the past 15 years, said employees have been scrabbling to try to keep the store open, looking to find a possible 11th-hour investor. “I don’t have high hopes — there is a limit to the number of millionaires who want to invest in brick-and-mortar businesses. But I also believe there are people who are passionate about this type of shop,” he said. “[The closure] is going to leave a hole in the Bay Area [mountain store] scene.”

The Marmot building on Adeline has distinctive "Storybook" style architecture

Marmot’s architecturally distinctive building, at 3049 Adeline Street, was built in 1923 as the Hull & Durgin funeral home. BAHA describes it as “one of Berkeley’s most remarkable examples of Storybook-style architecture”.

Miller owns the building and its ancillary structures and the plan is to find a new leaseholder for the Marmot space.

Miller, who now lives in Washington State, remodeled the store and managed it for 15 years. He said he is going to focus on his other Marmot Mountain Works store in Bellevue, WA which, he said, is larger and benefits from the region’s year-round snow conditions.

Purcell said the Berkeley store had suffered from confusion over its name. Marmot is also an apparel brand which Miller used to own. That manufacturing company has subsequently been bought and sold many times but retains no relationship with the Marmot Mountain Works store, which sells a variety of brands focused on back-country and cross-country skiing and “hard-core” mountaineering.  A store called Marmot, also not related to Miller’s stores, opened in San Francisco recently.

Aside from the internet, competitors to Marmot locally include REI and Any Mountain in Berkeley, and Sunrise Mountain Sports in Livermore.

Supporters of the store reacted with shock to the news of the closure on Marmot’s Facebook page. Thomas Wandall wrote: “I am really going to miss this shop and the community it fosters. Sad day.” And Allen Currano said: “Sad, sad news. Marmot is a true Berkeley institution and will be missed by many of us outdoor folks.”

The store is clearing its inventory with a big “gambler’s sale” in the run-up to shuttering. Miller said prices will keep being reduced between now and mid-March.

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  • Sorry to hear it, though my own shopping patterns indicate that REI was a bigger competitor than online in this category.  I hope the Marmot employees will find opportunities at one of the other operations in town where their expertise will be welcomed.  For me personally, this is a retail category where brick and mortar advice is worth the expense.

  • djt

    I didn’t shop much at the retail store but I am still using a parka and sleeping bag from Marmot that I purchased in 1982.  I didn’t plan on handing down any clothing as heirlooms to my children but these might make it to heirloom status.  Sorry to see the store close.  That and Wilderness Exchange are major losses to the area.

  • We wish Lock and the staff at Marmot all the best. We opened our shop, The Framer’s Workshop in Berkeley just one year after Marmot Mountain Works opened. It is hard to imagine what closing the doors for the last time must feel like. We’re so sorry to loose another great brick and mortar store in Berkeley.

  • You know a local Brick and Mortar store that consistently kicked
    Marmot’s ass for the past 5 years?  Any Mountain.  When everyone got
    back into downhill with those fat skis, Marmot sold and rented ZERO downhill packages.  But you could get an $800 Randonee package for sure.  I’m sorry, but blaming the internet is bullshit these days.  Adapt or die.

  • Batard

    Sorry, still confused about the Marmot brand .. call me dense, but is this store selling the Marmot brand or no relationship?    Sorry it didn’t work out, but maybe you should have made it more obvious.

  • Pinhead

    Clearly, you’re referring to  a market segment they’ve consistently chosen not to serve at Marmot. I appreciate that they were the only ones worth patronizing in Berkeley or SF who knew anything about telemark or randonee gear. If I went to Any Mountain for telemark gear, they would have known exactly nothing compared to the Marmot specialists. There’s value in specialty stores. I’m sorry they couldn’t make it through the driest season I can recall.

  • EG

    Honestly, the service at this location was poor and the store was uninviting. I realize this is a tough economy, but I rarely felt welcome in this store compared with the experience at many other local (non-REI) retailers.

  • The convergence of the downhill and backcountry markets, and the online retailers that popped up to serve the combined market, probably did the most damage.  I actually agree that they could have served that market much better if they had put much effort into it.  

    Looks like I’ll be heading up to The Backcountry in Truckee for my tele needs from now on…

  • braisingking

    that’s kind of a bullshit comment-we didn’t want to sell downhill skiing stuff, too much competition, too many bottom feeders-we did very well being the only randonnee retailer in the bay area. Where we got killed was trying to compete with REi on fleece and other “lifestyle” crap.

  • sms

    Marmot was the only place left in the Bay Area, other than Sunrise in Livermore, for XC ski gear. REI abandoned that line completely at most of its stores, and kept just a handful of inventory at Berkeley and Saratoga. The problem is that few people will drive all the way to Marmot for items available closer to home, especially the very high margin clothing that subsidized lower margin equipment.

    The decline in the numbers of individuals interested in mountaineering, in cold or hot weather is more to blame than “the Internet.”

  • S_Domini

     They were previously the same company but the clothing line was sold off years ago.  Although the retail location still sold a healthy supply of Marmot gear.