If the silver and black, logo-laden trailer isn't parked in the lot, it's easy enough to drive through downtown Waterbury, Vermont, and miss Race Stock Sports. Still, you'd also have to overlook the four-foot arrow rendered in silver diamond plating pointing to a garage attached to a neo-Victorian house.
Inside, the black walls are slathered in silver ink—the signatures of ski racers who've bought gear, been fitted, and left their mark. Diamond-plate walls and counters run throughout. Sheaves of short, heavily sidecut race skis dominate one wall. Strewn under carpeted benches are cuffless ski boots sawn down to strange shapes.
Race Stock Sports is one of only a couple of race performance shops in the country. And it doesn't take a typical approach to selling ski boots to clients: "They pick the color—it's an impression thing—but I do the rest, says owner P.J. Dewey. "I sell more than 400 pairs of boots a year without having anyone try them on. Which means they stick their bare feet into those cuffless plastic slippers. "We do shell sizing here—it eliminates the very full liner that gives a false illusion of a boot that's too small, he says.
Dewey is compact, with a genial Irish mug and a career that would make him an icon to shop rats everywhere. A high school ski racer who seems to have majored in tree skiing while at Vermont's Johnson State College, Dewey took customers with him when he moved from one Stowe ski shop to another after graduation. Lange recognized his bootfitting savvy, hired him, and quickly promoted him to race tech support. At the time, Lange was the dominant player on the World Cup, and Dewey was soon working with the likes of Daron Rahlves. "I got thrown into the fire, he says.
But eight consecutive 60,000-mile years was enough. In 2003, he opened a small shop out of his house in Waterbury, a half mile south of his current location. His business model: provide high-end equipment and bootfitting for performance skiers of every age. Word got out that Dewey knew what he was doing. "I give everybody the same service I would give to a World Cup athlete.
This all happened at a time when "plug boots (race-stock boots with thicker shells that technicians grind out for a custom fit) became the rage with all manner of racers and top-tier skiers. "I manipulate plastic, says Dewey. "It's a two-hour effort, but people are skiing better. And not just racers. Dewey and his chief technician are both hammerhead tree skiers—which explains why they also fit freeskiing boots, stock fat skis from Völkl, and mount alpine-touring and telemark setups.
The wall-signing shtick started at his old shop so he could advertise the fact that some of his clients were coming from as far as 3,000 miles away. But black tagging on white walls became oppressively dark. Better, Dewey thought, to start in the new space with black walls that would go silver with signing. And as for the diamond-plate motif? "I watch a lot of American Chopper, says Dewey.