Online retailer 'evo' opens mixed-use space in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new kind of action sports gear store opened Thursday in Portland. Evo carries skis, snowboards, skateboards, bikes, clothing and accessories.

From the glossy pages of countless Powder and Skiing Magazine shoots, to sweeping the floor at his second brick and mortar store, evo founder/CEO Bryce Phillips is in an exciting phase of his life.

"We're among the top retailers in the world for selling ski and snowboard products," Phillips said as he stands among the racks and racks of brightly colored skis and boards. He, along with 35 other employees, have been working long nights at the new Portland store at 200 SE MLK Jr. Blvd.

But evo was a long time coming.

"I was introduced to skiing at Mt. Ashland as a kid in 5th grade and my uncle took me and paid for it," Phillips explained. "From that point on, I was like 'Oh my gosh, I have to figure out a way to pay for this.'"

He started out selling baseball cards in grade school, to buying and selling cars in high school, then tripling his money fixing and selling old skis. By then, Phillips was living in Whistler and was a sponsored pro-skier, traveling the world and jumping out of helicopters, but still, selling.

"Eventually, kind of selling out of dorm rooms and by the side of the road and everywhere else, the internet came along, and I originally sold on eBay and in 2001, launched the original site which was evogear.com."

In 2005, he opened his Seattle store and recently moved it to the Fremont area. It's been a huge success with partner restaurants in the same space, an open-air concept and in the basement, the first indoor skate park in Seattle

That, along with the website www.evo.com, it's all grossing $50 million a year in sales. Now Phillips has big plans for Portland.

"There's amazing history in here, amazing history," Phillips says walking through the SE MLK Jr. Blvd. building. "The original building was built in 1893. It was a Salvation Army building and that resonates because it was here to be a supportive element to the community."

That's one of evo's mission statements: Create a mixed-use space where you have art, design and product, all without a snooty attitude to the sports' newcomers.

"How much you know or don't know should not matter at all," Phillips explains. "It's how can we introduce you to something that you could have a passion for. We want people to feel comfortable here and that's always a reflection of how they're treated by employees."

Evo Portland store manager Jordan Sunshine agrees.

"We really want this to be a community center and all the people who participate in those sports and play those sports to come and treat it as a cultural center," Sunshine said.

Unearthing the building's original floors, making tables out of the wood beams and featuring local artists -- evo wants Portland to shine in its new space. In-store movie premieres, concerts and a partner restaurant are not far off.

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