Bryce Phillips is a game changer.
Spend five minutes inside of his Seattle store, and it’s obvious Evo, the company he founded in 2001, has revolutionized the idea of what a ski shop can be.
Upon entering, there are the expected two levels of adventure sports and street wear apparel and a mezzanine brimming with brightly colored skis, snowboards, boots and more gear. But peek around one corner, and there’s an art gallery. Go down a few sets of stairs, and there’s a sizable indoor skateboarder’s park—Seattle’s only. Look out the windows of the mezzanine, and you’ll find yourself peering into the dining rooms of two nationally recognized restaurants, Joule and The Whale Wins. To top it all off, when needed, the space morphs into a music venue to host concerts and events, many of which benefit charities.
"All those things are just core to who we are," Phillips says of all the many facets—adventure sports, art, music, food, architectural design and philanthropy—that work together to create the Evo brand. "We gravitated toward things we’re passionate about, and those things intersect with this lifestyle that we represent; they made natural sense. Art, music, the clothing and street wear mixed with the sports elements, they all kind of fit together."
Collectively, the space is known as the Fremont Collective, and he says the idea is to have all the parts function together to provide a lifestyle, not just a shopping experience. Game changer.
But this isn’t the first time Phillips has charted new territory. Until the fall of 2013, Phillips also worked as a big-mountain professional skier, sponsored by companies like K2 Sports and Patagonia, which explains where he gets his expertise and passion for snow sports, along with the guts it takes to try something new. He spent well over a decade dropping into dangerous, previously untouched runs, some accessible only by helicopter—often for the sake of creating art in the form of photography and film.
It was during his professional skiing career that he started buying and selling ski and snowboard gear to his friends out of his garage, and thus Evo was born.
And the idea behind the Fremont Collective certainly isn’t the last time he is going to make waves.
"I’m excited about where we are, but it’s my personality to always be thinking about where we’re going next, and I feel like I’m just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the opportunity that’s out there," Phillips says.
In fact, Phillips just recently broke ground on a project that will transform the skiing culture in this region in a major way. The project is called The Pass Life, and it’s a multifaceted development located at Snoqualmie Pass that includes environmentally responsible lofts, a brew house, a restaurant, and plans for a general store.
And it’s these campus-esque, culture-meets-sports developments that really thrill Phillips as he moves forward.
Like The Pass Life, not all the projects will have Evo stores, but his hopes for replicating campuses like the Fremont Collective that includes the original Evo store described above, are grand.
"The space is what really differentiates us as a brand. So that, by default, makes us really excited about the possibility of opening new stores in flagship locations in the nation, and one day internationally," Phillips says. "If we’re going to do that in 20 major cities, and then go to 20 cities overseas, that’s a lifetime of work. Even if we go fast, that’s a lifetime of work."
Phillips says his dreams include having stores in places such as Denver, New York, Zurich, Buenos Aires and Vancouver. But plans for a Portland location are first; and Phillips confirms they are already underway.
But perhaps the most remarkable and innovative thing about Phillips and his business plans is that whatever success comes from it, he pays it back to the community.
"A big move in coming months, years, and beyond is to be very balanced and focused to leverage what we have accomplished to give back," Phillips says. "Our stated cause is working with underprivileged youth, and we do not just want to get behind it ourselves with time and resources, but really carry the torch for it."
Phillips says his passion for this particular cause was fostered as a small kid growing up in the small town of Roseburg, Oregon.
"I think one of the things I was most fortunate to have is close relationships with people who had nothing," he says. "I saw how incredibly fortunate I was by just having some basic things that very close friends of mine didn’t have. They were just in very bad situations. So having seen it firsthand and lived it firsthand with people I cared about impacted me from about first grade on."
Now, when Phillips isn’t shredding on the mountain or dreaming up new ways to develop community-centered spaces, he is trying to “move the meter” on what it means to give back by getting his employees, clients and friends to join in the effort.
"If you’re successful, I think it’s important the default part of your response has to be to give part of it back. Some people are doing that in a big way, but it’s not the default yet," Phillips says. And that’s what it really means to create change.