Outside Business Journal

Innovation Project: Proof Lab Station

Calling Proof Lab Station a specialty outdoor shop is like calling Yosemite a place. It’s so much more than just that. Founder Will Hutchinson talks about the many reasons customers come into his store in Episode 16 of The Innovation Project.

Ryan Wichelns

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When is an outdoor store more than an outdoor store? When it’s also an indoor skate park, a coffee house, a ceramic studio, a kids’ art school, a music studio, and a native plant nursery.

“We’ve decided to dedicate our resources to brick and mortar and just get really good at that,” says Proof Lab’s Will Hutchinson. “At our size, it’s really hard to launch a website and manage inventory, customer service, shipping, and product photos and make it all look good.” So, instead of “being OK at brick and mortar and half-assed online, and losing to the big guys everywhere, we went all in.”

The Mill Valley, California, shop puts 100 percent of its marketing efforts into building, fostering and enriching the surrounding community. It goes way beyond doing slideshows and clinics.

Hutchinson supports all the above-mentioned businesses by giving them space under his own roof, and integrating them into his retail business. (Proof Lab Station sells mugs from the ceramic studio and features a living plant wall maintained by the nursery, for example.)

“If you’re going to have a brick and mortar store, you have to give people a reason to come in there,” says Hutchinson.

At Proof Lab Station, there are many reasons to walk through the door.

Innovation project sponsored by Marmot
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