Jones family’s ski businesses live up to their reputation
Much has happened in the 37 years since Kenwood Jones Sr. opened the doors to Ken Jones Ski Shop, then on Amherst Street in Nashua. But through the change of hands, name changes and relocations there have been some constants — constants that customers have come to expect, employees have come to embrace and success has come to flourish upon.
The operation once manned by Jones has become a family business — Ken Sr., along with partner Jeff Proctor, owns Nashua Ski and Sports Mart on Spitbrook Road and shares ownership of Ken Jones Ski Mart and Snowboard Jones off Interstate 293 across from the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester with son Ken “Woody” Jones Jr. and daughter Alison Jones.
Alison’s son Dylan Jones-Hall, now 24, represents the third generation of the family expected eventually to oversee the business, which now boasts 14,000 square feet of space, with the snowboard business and ski business each occupying its own retail facility.
According to Woody Jones, a dozen brand names of skis and snowboards are offered at the two stores, with more than 100 models to choose from, along with clothing and winter sports accessories.
Add to the impressive inventory a full-service department with more than $100,000 worth of Austrian machinery dedicated to the care of skis and snowboards and it’s easy to see why the Jones family has become a recognizable name in the ski industry – the businesses were named the top ski store in North America by Ski magazine and has received the magazine’s Gold Medal Shop Award for six years in a row. (The Top Shop Award also was bestowed upon Ken Jones Ski Mart by Snow Country magazine three times in the early ‘90s.)
On a more local level, The New England Sports Representatives named Ken Jones Ski Mart and Snowboard Jones the “Best of New England” in 1999 and 2004.
“The Joneses are what you would call ‘silent shiners’ — they are a small company that has experienced more success than a number of large businesses,” said Sandee Lefebvre, Citizens Bank’s Mall of New Hampshire branch manager and since 2003 the bank’s relationship manager for Ken Jones Ski Mart and Snowboard Jones.
Lefebvre credits the company’s success to its commitment to customer service
“This business is dependent on two things that we have no control over – weather and the economy,” said Woody Jones, 57, during a visit to his store only days before Christmas. “Since the growth of the ‘90s this has really been a receding business. We’re dependent on what my dad called ‘the fun dollar.’”
“Selection, service and price — you’ve got to have it all working for you,” Jones said, adding, “the key to the success of this store is the staff.”
Alison Jones, 52, echoes her brother’s sentiment: “Our service keeps people coming back. People know that when they do shop here, the owners are going to be present. They also know that our employees have been here forever and know the business and the sports.”
For Tim Jackson of Manchester, Snowboard Jones was the first place he thought to look when it came to checking off items on his son Michael’s Christmas list a couple of years ago. “All Mikey wanted was a snowboard. I knew nothing about it, but figured Snowboard Jones would be a good place to start. The kid that helped me out answered all my questions and I walked out of there with everything I needed. I plan on heading back there when it’s time for a new board,” said Jackson.
While the Joneses recognize the importance of maintaining a professional and knowledgeable staff, they know first-hand how difficult that can be in a business open only from August through March. When doors close during the summer months, all non-management employees must find other job opportunities. Because of this, however, Woody and Allison work hard to make Ken Jones Ski Mart and Snowboard Jones a place all their employees look forward to returning to.
“We’re known for good compensation, good bonuses and for being a fun place to work,” Woody Jones said, naming two managers, Todd Atkinson and David Galeucia, as examples of employees who have been working for the Joneses for 18 years, both since high school and through college.
“This is a great place to work,” said Galeucia, snowboard manager and buyer for Snowboard Jones. “They pay well and have good benefits and the daily energy is nice here. It allows me to work someplace I enjoy in an industry that I love.”
The Joneses take commitment to the community as seriously as commitment to employees.
Each year they partner with Atomic Ski and John Bonneville of the Bonneville & Son auto dealerships, selling tickets, donating prizes and helping to staff the annual presentation of a Warren Miller Ski Event at the Palace Theater, with all proceeds benefiting “Kristen’s Gift,” which aids Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, or CHaD.
And when the season gets into full swing, the Joneses introduce the children of the Webster House — a group home for adolescents in Manchester — to skiing and snowboarding by getting them the gear they need to have a fun time on the slopes.
After 37 years, the Jones family has perfected a formula for success that includes a knowledgeable and dedicated staff, a good location, a loyal customer base, commitment to community – and an understanding that they have to continue to adapt to the industry’s changing demands.
But Woody Jones is just happy to have found a way to make a living “selling fun.”
“Everybody that comes in here is in a good mood, it’s great,” he said.