Step through the dutch-door of Canyon Pass Provisions on River Road in Fair Haven, and you’ll feel like you’ve been […]
Step through the dutch-door of Canyon Pass Provisions on River Road in Fair Haven, and you’ll feel like you’ve been teleported to Snowmass, Colorado. At Canyon Pass, every effort has been made to create a retail store that doesn’t feel like a store. From the hanging hammock to the two lawn chairs, Genevieve and Derek Debree have brought to life a store that gives you the sensation of being outdoors. Canyon Pass Provisions stocks outdoor apparel and accessories for your outdoor adventures. If they don’t have it, they’ll get it for you. They carry: iBex, Olukai, Outdoor Research, Kuhl, Sherpa, Toad and Co., Farm to Feet, Ambler Hats and others. They also carry some jewelry crafted by their daughter, Schuyler. Schuyler collects shells and seaglass on family trips to Block Island, Rehoboth Beach, Puerto Rico and of course, the Jersey Shore.
More importantly, Genevieve and Derek are involved with Second Life Bikes in Asbury Park. Second Life Bikes is a non-profit organization, where youths can work 15 hours in exchange for a bicycle of their own. “In addition to gaining valuable practical skills, youths are exposed to the value of committing their time to a community organization.” If you would like to donate a used bicycle to Second Life, Canyon Pass will gladly accept your donation. They even have a bike for sale that has been refurbished by Second Life Bikes.
Long time Fair Havenites, the Debrees are no strangers to working together. It takes a special marriage to do it successfully, and Genevieve and Derek are that uniquely talented duo. I found the idea of a husband and wife team opening a retail store together so intriguing, I knew I had to interview them. The interview is after the images:
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Where, how and when did the idea of Canyon Pass originate?
Canyon Pass Provisions was 20 years in the making. As a family, we have always embraced the outdoors and the environment. We also have a special place in our hearts for small independent businesses and the entrepreneurs that drive them. After creating and running a small computer software company servicing clients across North America, we sought to do something that would connect us with our community on a more local level. As our kids move on to college, Derek and I were looking to create a meaningful and challenging work experience that we would find engaging as empty-nesters. Our guiding objectives were to do something as a family team, to sell products we believed in, to work with people (brands and their representatives) that we would want at our dinner table, and to create a uniquely warm experience for our customers. Our mission is to provide great products that enable and encourage our customers to live active outdoor lifestyles.
What is the delineation of work duties between you and Derek? Who takes care of what?
Derek and I have been married 24 years. Despite the everyday stresses and challenges of marriage and parenting, we have found a rewarding balance in our work and personal lives. We have complimentary skill sets that help us avoid frequent pitfalls. Derek has a background in finance, sales, and marketing and he manages the finances of the business. He is largely responsible for the environment we have created in the store. We converted a nine-room dentist office into a beautiful retail space leveraging Derek’s passion for design, and skills he learned in high school shop classes. My background is in nutrition, health, and customer service. I manage our buying relationships to ensure our product mix is unique and desirable. As newcomers to the retail business, the “art of the buy” has truly been the steepest part of the learning curve. Thankfully, we have aligned ourselves with great brands and the people behind these brands have expert knowledge which they share generously. Derek and I certainly share one key responsibility . . . that is to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors has a positive retail experience.
Working as a husband/wife team – do you bring work home? Do you discuss CP at the dinner table?
We don’t know many entrepreneurs that can successfully draw the line between work and home. Ours is a family business and we think it is beneficial to engage each other and our children in discussions that impact the family unit. We have tried to ensure that our children were exposed to each part of the entrepreneurial process; from incorporating the LLCs, to installing the floors, the hosting our Grand Opening. When we have the luxury of sitting at the dinner table at the same time, business discussion is intertwined with school updates, weekend planning, and taking time to recognize how fortunate we are. We certainly know when it’s time to disconnect from the business as well – that’s when we hit the Fair Haven Natural Area for a walk. When we are out enjoying nature we always try to avoid business discussion.
Do your children like the outdoors as much as you do?
They certainly do. Our children both find sanctuary in the outdoors. Getting out of the house has always been a priority in our household: walks in the woods, fishing and crabbing from the Fair Haven dock, ski and snowboard trips, surfing excursions, trips to the National Parks, burying our feet in the sand on our local beaches, family dinners on the front porch, or simply swinging in the backyard hammock while reading a book. We believe life is better lived outdoors.
Where would you like to go camping that you haven’t been yet? Your ideal destination?
There are just too many great options to choose from. Our list of future excursions includes a return to Yosemite National Park, a summer trip to Alaska, and substantial hikes on both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. So much to see and so little time!
What is your favorite place to hike? Most memorable hike?
Derek and I each have individual and shared favorites. Derek will tell you that the most moving outdoor experience of his life was in Chamonix France where he rode the Aiguille du Midi tramway and skied the Vallee Blanche which is regarded as the longest and most breath-taking lift-served ski run in the world. I savor the family trip we took to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks where we hiked, rafted, and camped in the luxury of an RV for 12 days. It was our most memorable family vacation. As a family unit, Block Island is our favorite destination. It is one of the greatest unspoiled natural treasures in the United States and we always feel completely removed from real life the moment we step on the ferry.
Tell us about your prior work experience. And Derek’s?
I spent the last 10 years leading account management for StoneTimberRiver; a small software company founded by Derek and his brother Dwight in 1996. Prior to STR I was a management recruiter for Bank of America. Prior to creating STR, Derek worked for Nucor Corporation and Price Waterhouse Coopers in operations management and finance.
Did you ever have a camping trip disaster?
Sorry to say that we lived up to the RV stereotype. On our Yellowstone trip a horseback riding excursion required us to navigate some back roads in the RV. Although the side step was still attached to the vehicle, it took a sledge hammer and good jumping skills to continue our trip.
What do you like to do when you’re not outdoors?
We love to relax by the fire and watch a good movie. We encourage our kids to have their friends over, take over the living space, and empty the pantry. We plan our next outdoor adventure.
Your surprise talent? Derek’s?
I grew up fishing with my father in Block Island Sound. I’m also a retired marathoner and tri-athlete who continues to work out for the physical and mental benefits. Derek is an odd one….he studied journalism in college, became a CPA, and worked in software sales and marketing for 18 years. He is a firefighter, an EMT, and he enjoys woodworking and welding.
Genevieve and Derek, thank you so much for your time and giving us a glimpse into Canyon Pass Provisions.
Images courtesy of Canyon Pass