Sunday, July 12, 2009

SRAB Visits Flagstaff’s Decker Outdoor Corporation: Mountain Chic for Your Feet

I love high-heels and girly pointy-toed pumps as much as the next well-dressed bike commuter and recently have been experimenting with pedaling to work in them. However, in the mountain southwest super high heels aren’t always practical. The Flagstaff woman who demands style and function for rough terrain has at least a couple of pairs of Teva shoes and sandals in her closet.

The original Teva (pronounced Teh-vah; Hebrew for “nature”) sports sandal was developed by a Grand Canyon river guide. The line has expanded to include trail running shoes, flip flops and casual street shoes. Today, Teva is owned by Decker Outdoor Corporation, makers of UGG Australia, Simple Shoes, and TSUBO. Flagstaff is the home of Decker’s Internet sales operation located in downtown Flagstaff, as I discovered on an afternoon stroll last year. Since then, the idea of featuring them on my blog has been brewing in my mind. With the encouragement of a friend who knows Dietrich, the Decker HR manager, I took the initiative and made it happen.

I entered the Decker reception are off Leroux two weeks ago to interview a few of their bike commuting staff. The Decker offices are virtually a footwear nirvana. My day, which I arranged to have off from work, started out on a downer note when my supervisor called and asked me to come in later in the day to resolve a minor emergency. Yes, I stewed a bit on my journey downtown. However, upon entering Decker’s reception area the dark clouds lifted as I took in the hundreds of shoes, scuffs, boots, sandals and flip flops arranged on the walls. Merchandising racks displayed Simple Shoes’ sneakers in patterned hemp and neutral and pastels. UGG boots and scuffs in bright colors that I forgot existed hung over the receptionist's’s desk. I wondered if they sold shoes to people drawn in right off the street (they do not). As I tried to regulate my breathing, it occurred to me my husband would be alarmed if he knew I had been left alone with so much footwear.

Soon, Josh and Nick, two buyers for Decker, ushered me to their desks for their interview. A momentary pang of anxiety came over me as I realized that I had neglected to bring my interview forms and that an on-the-ball blogger would have brought along a tape recorder. Oh, well. Muddle through.

Josh has been living in Flagstaff for 17 years and with Decker for about one and a half years, having previously worked in retail at Dillards. He described Decker as committed to comfort, the outdoors and diversity. Josh told me he has been bike commuting since Bike to Work Week 2008. Josh decided to bike to work because of the “parking situation, to save gas, and (laughing) I was getting chubby and needed more exercise.” As one of Outdoor Magazine’s 10 Best Places to Work, Josh told me Decker supports bike commuting since it is consistent with Decker’s emphasis on the outdoor life style and sustainable practices. He added that Decker provides all their employees with a one-year Mountain Line bus pass, which relieves him of the hassle of trying to find and/or pay for parking.

Josh hasn’t encountered any major problems as a bike commuter with the exception of a recent bike wreck on some new paving going down Cedar Avenue hill. His scars were still visible and he appeared to wear them proudly. He thinks Flagstaff is a fairly bike friendly community and uses the bike lanes.

Nick is from Phoenix and has lived in Flag for 10 years; he’s been with Decker for one year. Nick started to bike commute for four months because he and his girlfriend own one car only. He described his bike commuting experience as “addicting” and “better than a cup of coffee.” Nick’s bike was a donation from a friend.

Josh and Nick wear Decker brands at work and on their bike commutes. Nick typically rides in his GNAR water shoes, an off-shoot of their wake boarding shoe. I confessed to having no idea what wake boarding was but from the picture he showed me it appeared to be a variation of surfing. In any case, the GNAR is a good looking shoe and Nick appears happy wearing them.

Josh told me that Teva traditionally has been Decker’s technical sport shoes. He showed me a new Teva sports sandal, the Omnium, pictured here. He said that although Teva does not make shoes specific to biking or bike commuting, the gripping rubber on the soles do an excellent job of holding on to the bike pedal, a big concern for bike commuters, especially in wet weather.The Toachi is pictured here and features toe-guards, especially beneficial for commutes over rough, rocky terrains so common in mountain communities like Flagstaff.
Josh showed me several shoes from the Simple Shoes brand. He said that Simple Shoes has been an industry pioneer in sustainable footwear, using recycled and/or sustainable materials such as bike tires, inner tubes, plastic bottles cork and hemp in the creation their products.

Nick told me he works with the TSUBO brand, an urban casual shoe. We looked at the TSUBO website, which features sports casual, casual, and dress casual lines. TSUBO designs shoes that marry ergonomics with style. I was the most interested in the dress casual lines which featured several high heeled versions of what appeared to be Mary Janes meets the Jetsons. I loved them. I wondered how I would navigate the FUTS between University Heights and Walmart in the high-heeled, TSUBOB Woman's Anush Shoe. I decided it could be done.

Since I had reviewed the Teva website the evening before, I was especially curious about a new fall boot, the Montecito, which comes in leather and suede, in both brown and black. The Montecito in particular caught my attention because the calf looked just the right size for my short little calves, usually swallowed by very high boots that come up to and even over my knee. I asked Josh if he had a pair in the office for me to photograph for my blog and also try on for size. Of course they did. Nick found a pair for me in black leather. Yes! They are the buttery kind of leather I love. I slipped each on. They fit perfectly and hit my calf just about 1.5 inches from my top of my shin bone. The boot zipped up the calf and has a hemp band strap and wooden button as a zen-like flourish. I walked around a bit. Very comfortable. Just enough of a squish yet supportive. The cork heel gave me just enough lift. My search had ended. Oh, why couldn’t I just buy them right off the floor? “Just take them,” said Josh, “let us know what you think.” Was he kidding? I’d probably never take these boots off! Suddenly, I felt tired of warm weather and couldn’t wait for fall. I thought things like this only happened to Kate Moss.

The following Monday afternoon, I met up again with Josh and Nick to photograph them on their bikes. They invited their coworker Denise, whose first bike commute to work was last week, to join us. Denise is stunningly beautiful and, amazingly, also the mother of four. I made a mental note to never stand next to her in a photograph. Denise decided to give bike commuting a try because she lives close to downtown, to get added exercise and to save money on gas. Her biggest anticipated difficulty with bike commuting is when it interferes with transporting her children to where they need to go. Because Decker’s work atmosphere is casual, she feels comfortable biking to work dressed in her work clothes. Denise rides a Huffy mountain bike and wears her Teva Omnium shoes while doing so.

Given the fact that Flagstaff and Teva are both associated with adventure sports, it is not surprising that Denise's coworkers also favor mountain bikes. While this blog usually features city, comfort and commuter bikes many American bike commuters start out commuting on bikes originally purchased for sports. In fact, my friend Martin told me last week that Joe Breezer started out making mountain bikes before moving strictly to commuter and range bikes.

Josh bikes in on a Schwinn SX2000 from Target he received as a gift, and it has a great commuter bike.Josh also wears Men's Omnium shoe.

Nick spends a lot of time on bike trails and comes to work on a Moho by Ha Mountain Cycle, a mountain bike brand that only the true hard core mountain bikers know about - I was completely ignorant of it. Perhaps some of my readers are familiar with it.Nick rode in his Teva Hurricane 3 sandals.
I'd like to thank all the staff at Decker Outdoor Corporation for making this fun project of mine possible during the last couple of weeks. It was fun learning about one of my favorite shoe's roots here in Flagstaff and getting to know the other Decker brands. Later this week I'll post about my new Montecito boots. I simply couldn't wait until the fall to check them out. I am pretty sure that as the weather chills in September, SRAB readers will be seeing a lot of them!

4 comments:

Notes From Oz said...

I'd been waiting with baited breath for your interview and, of course, wasn't interested. I love those boots- lucky girl!

MamaVee said...

nice.

that's a hot little boot and now I want a pair. I'm not a heels type and love chunky boots and shoes. Those are cute.

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Stacy Allen said...

The Outdoor Women