Cookies, customer service bring repeat business
For the past nine seasons, Ron and Kim Mackie and their son Dustin have been outfitting the skiing masses, locals and visitors alike, from their beloved hole-in-the-wall shop in the strip mall they share with Ulrich’s Pharmacy and Hanks’ Harvest Foods.
For the upcoming season, the Mackies bought themselves some breathing room. They purchased their end of the building, at 427 Highway 20, and doubled the size of Loup Loup Ski Rental Shop. All the skis, clothing and equipment are within easier reach, and customers won’t be bumping into each other as often to get to the shop’s trademark cookies.
The store took over the space occupied by its next-door neighbor, Trim Line Salon. The salon landed safely across the highway to continue doing business.
For the uninitiated, Loup Loup Ski Rental Shop can be overwhelming. Downhill skis and snowboards compete for a customer’s attention in the roomier showroom. Those who might fancy a cross-country experience need to decide between classic or skate skis. Would you like to try snowshoes or Hok skis—the wide, stubby ATVs of the skiing world?
We haven’t even gotten to the boots and bindings yet. Never mind the jackets, gloves, hats, helmets and goggles.
The Mackies are experts at taking all of the intimidation out of their customers’ experience. They spend extra time with beginners, helping them decide which skis will work best for them. And a ski-boot purchase comes with a custom fitting.
“We want people to go skiing,” Dustin said, smiling. He wasn’t saying that merely to outline the store’s business model. The Mackies want their customers to have a good time on the snow.
“They’re family. That’s what makes it fun,” said Ron Mackie, who has been renting out ski equipment for almost 50 years, including some 40 years at Loup Loup Ski Bowl.
The Mackies prove their commitment to their family of customers, especially during the height of the season.
“Fifteen-hour days is kinda normal for us,” Ron Mackie said.
“It’s a job, sure,” Dustin said, “but whenever someone walks through the door, they’re here to have a good time and be happy. That’s always been really enjoyable.”
“We’re in the fun business!” Ron Mackie chimed in.
That’s where the cookies come in. The store can go through 12 or 14 dozen cookies in one day.
“Where you always leave with a cookie and a smile”: It’s the store’s motto. It’s even printed on Ron Mackie’s business card.
Some combination of the cookies and the customer service makes for a lot of repeat business. Dustin, who is only 29, is already fitting the children of customers he helped when he was a teenager.
And Dustin practices what he sells. He’s been skiing since the age of 16. That’s months, not years.
“I was born into the industry. I don’t know a whole lot different,” Dustin said.
Dustin knows a whole lot about fixing skis. He told the story of a despondent skier who hit something and tore a chunk almost as big as a ski boot out of the bottom of his ski.
The skier wasn’t sure Dustin could fix the damage, so Dustin made him a deal: After I’m finished, I’ll display the ski in the shop with all the other skis. If you can find it, the fix is free.
The customer left satisfied and lighter in the wallet.
Ron Mackie has been known to work magic on skis, too. A boy named Wolf came into the shop once to get a last-minute wax before participating in the Wolf Chase Race on the Loup.
The race turned out to be a wolf chase after all, as a boy named Wolf came in first place.
The boy rushed back to the store right after the race.
“He couldn’t wait to see Ron,” Kim said, “to tell him the wax worked.”
Loup Loup Ski Rental Shop opens for the season at 10 a.m. on Nov. 2. Leave some room for the cookies.