When Smartwool’s parent company, VF Corporation, announced the move of Smartwool’s headquarters from Steamboat Springs to Denver in 2018, several employees opted to leave the company so they could stay in Steamboat. Robin Hall was one of them.
With over 15 years of experience in the outdoor industry and 11 at Smartwool, Hall wore many hats at the company over the years, including Strategic Planning and Project Management, Chief Information Officer, and Director of Retail and Director of Sustainability. Hall had ample experience in all aspects of growing a business and a deep passion for the outdoor industry. She joined forces with co-founders Jay Lambert, who was also a longtime Smartwool employee, and Joe Solomon, who started Iconic Adventures in Steamboat, and began to launch Town Hall Outdoor Co.
“When VF announced that Smartwool was moving to the Front Range after the company was born here in Steamboat 25 years ago, our family looked at each other and we knew we weren’t going to leave this town. All we knew at that point was we wanted to do something that would give back to this wonderful place,” Hall says.
Hall knew she wanted to start a new business that would be community focused, would meet a need where there was a void in the market, and would serve the Steamboat community and beyond. “What we are good at is apparel and we had a great network in the outdoor apparel industry. We started to think about what we are passionate about, but also something that would be sustainable and not just about creating more stuff,” Hall says.
They immediately realized there was a need for kids’ clothes in the outdoor apparel space. “Not a lot of domestic brands really care about making the right gear for kids, or about testing the heck out of it for warmth, dryness, pocket placement, zipper pulls. That became our laser focus,” Hall says.
Hall dug deep into market research, kid-style. “We’d gather together groups of 10 kids on blankets in the park with trail mix and lemonade and ask them about everything from what they look for in a jacket and what they like and don’t like, where they want their pockets, to how they feel about sustainability and climate change.”
What they came up with is a narrow line with purposeful, thoughtful design that is also technical and functional, with bright colors and signature stripes on the sleeve and pant leg. “One thing we heard from a lot of kids is they want to be able to find their friends on the mountain,” Hall says. “All our clothes are purpose-built with a fun, fresh design. The idea is for a one-jacket quiver that will meet all your kid’s needs.” Betting on the kids paid off; The Down Town Puffy made Outside Magazine’s Best Kids Winter Gear list of 2023.
The price point is right where it should be for the market and though they launched with online sales direct to market, Hall says they realized the importance of retailers in terms of building that community. “We want these retailers to be part of this big family and quickly realized there’s no better place to build that community than with these juicy mountain town retailers.” Hall hit the road personally and went to 75 stores with a car full of jackets and knocked on doors. “So many of them told us they don’t sell kid’s gear, it doesn’t work in our town. That’s what keeps me up at night. Where are people buying kid’s gear?”
She started with a half dozen stores to partner with “who truly get it and are inspired by us, and we are inspired by them,” Hall says. “They are helping to spread the word locally.”
What truly separates Town Hall Outdoor Co, other than their kids-only focus is their products are as sustainable as possible. “Our ski jacket is made from 98% recycled materials—pretty much everything other than snaps and zippers.” Hall was fascinated to discover that kids are asking for sustainable products that are durable enough to last and stay out of the landfill products that should be passed on when they’re outgrown, or what Hall likes to call “hand me ups,” a product that can stay in circulation as long as possible.
“Kids care about sustainability. That’s what they’re asking for and that’s what they care about so it became really important to us to become planet positive, and to give more than we take.”
Sounds like a lesson we can all benefit from. //townhallco.com