The sudden closure of the two Ascent Outdoors stores and its partner store Ascent Cycle this April shocked Seattle’s biking, hiking and climbing community because these stores served as a hub for the area’s outdoors community for 23 years before they abruptly went out of business.
But there’s good news for outdoors enthusiasts: Ascent Outdoors is set to reopen sometime this July, with an emphasis on diversity and community.
The Ballard-based Ascent Outdoors store and the Ascent Cycle store are now owned by Seattle resident Sandeep Nain, the founder of retail and mountain climbing group Miyar Adventures.
When Nain heard about Ascent Outdoors’ closing, he was shocked and disappointed even though the store was one of his main competitors. As an avid member of Seattle’s climbing scene, initial news of the store’s closing flooded his social networks in the spring. “My friend texted me a picture of the Ballard store. Immediately I thought if there was something I could do,” Nain said in a phone interview.
Like so many Seattle climbers, Nain wanted to see the store reopen. So, he decided to do something about it. He made an offer on the company and was soon discussing the lease with the original shop owner and current property owner, Greg Shaw.
“We restocked the inventory and we decided to call the old employees before the deal even went through,” Nain said.
The Ascent Outdoors store in Redmond will not be reopening — it was closed before the Ballard store. Nain is deciding whether Ballard’s Ascent Cycle store will continue to exist as a separate location or combine with the Ascent Outdoors store. Developments on Ascent Cycle will take a back seat until Ascent Outdoors is up on its feet, he said.
For Nain, this reopening is about more than bringing back a community favorite. It’s about embracing mom and pop stores in the height of their demise and making these communities accessible to everyone, he said.
“He’s a wonderful ambassador of all aspiring outdoors people, especially the Indian American community, and his efforts are making the outdoors more accessible to everyone,” Tom Vogl, CEO of The Mountaineers, wrote in a news release.
The climbing community isn’t known for its diversity, said Nain, who is originally from India.
“When I moved here, getting into climbing and the outdoors was intimidating. Climbing and the industry can appear as a white people’s sport,” Nain said.
Nain has been trying to foster diversity in the outdoors community for as long as he’s been part of it. In 2009, he started a climbing program for Asha for Education, a nonprofit that works to sponsor the education of underprivileged children in India.
“I thought it could be a way Indians could get involved in climbing,” Nain said. “It became one of the biggest fundraisers for Asha.”
Nain’s focus on diversity is paired with the hopeful continuation of the community spirit that made Ascent Outdoors so beloved locally. Nain said he rehired “most of the staff,” because “we know they’re good employees and the customers love them.”
Most important, Nain says, he wants the store to be a place people can come to feel comfortable: “Whether it’s through events or presentations by amateur climbers, we don’t want to make it just a hard-core climber store. We want to continue and enforce the feeling that people can come in, not just to buy stuff, but to talk about climbing and feel like they are part of a community.”