After nearly ten years working at Second Gear, co-owner and manager Eric Smythers still looks forward to coming to work. “I really like the folks I work with, our regular consignors and customers who come through the door everyday – that’s the fun part,” says Smythers.  “I’m also proud to provide affordable options to people gearing up for the outdoors.”

Yet, a decade ago, the Warren Wilson College graduate was fed up with retail and was considering a new career path after stints with several national chains. Through mutual friends he met Second Gear founder Russ Towers who was looking for a new store manager. Soon after, he was behind the counter and within a year, a co-owner. Now Smythers specializes in the human-capital side of the business: hiring employees, training, payroll, and juggling the schedules of 10 employees. 

“Second Gear really seemed like a good fit for my experience and interests and I wanted to be part of a local mom-and-pop shop,” he recalls. Smythers was also hooked by the opportunity to connect to the West Asheville small business community.  A decade earlier the store fronts on Haywood Road east of I-240 in West Asheville were fledgling. “We’ve seen big changes in the last ten years which has benefited all of us on this stretch of Haywood Road,” says Smythers. “Being part of that growth has made it a tight knit community.” 

For Second Gear, the commercial boom in West Asheville has funnelled a river of walk-in-traffic that has helped lift the store’s bottom line. Still, Smythers doesn’t take the shop’s good fortune for granted and considers the steady growth over the last decade a by-product of choosing dependable employees, preserving a steady reputation, and nurturing long-term customers and gear consigners.

“Our success really depends on the goodwill of our customers, our neighbors, and the entire community,” says Smythers. “We’re determined to hold ourselves to a high standard.

– Jack Igelman