by Madison V. Fisler
Jan. 30, 2014. When Ric and Edi Crosby moved to Banner Elk from Miami, they had 20 years of customer service under their belts and were looking for a way to carry on their skills in a new setting. After some searching, Snow Toys, located in Banner Elk, seemed like the perfect fit.
“My wife Edi and I sold our company in Miami after 20 years and decided to come up here to Banner Elk where we have had a home since 2005,” said Ric Crosby, the self-proclaimed “head ski guy” at Snow Toys.
“We purchased this place three years ago. It is a smaller shop, and the ski business is a volumes game, so we knew we had to specialize in something other than volume.”
That specialty came in the form of exceptional customer service, which lends itself well to the smaller, more intimate setting of Snow Toys.
“We earn our customers one at a time, and that’s how it should be,” Crosby said. “We take the time to educate our customers, because in a lot of cases this is their first time on the slopes. Providing great customer service and trying to fill the needs of every customer has always been important to us.”
Through the years, Snow Toys has become synonymous with spectacular, personalized service from the “head ski guy” in Banner Elk. Guests can expect the employees to come out from behind the counter to help get customers into their gear, make sure they are fitted correctly, and ensure that they have the proper safety equipment.
“Since we bought this place, we have tripled the stock of helmets,” Crosby said. “Helmets are so important. We want people to have a great time, and to remember that they had a great time out on the slopes.”
The first two years that Crosby owned Snow Toys were some of the driest, with little snow falling for the entire winter.
“The first year was tough, we had the least amount of snow in 40 years here. The last two years have just gotten better and better and we are looking forward to the next really great year. We are getting a really great customer following, and we get many of our customers through recommendations from former clients.”
Crosby recounted a story of one particular customer who had reservations the following day. The family decided to go up to the ski resort early, and decided to rent from the resort. When they got there, they were disappointed with the service they received, and when they came to Snow Toys the next day, they were blown away.
“We took the time to sit with their kids and make sure everything fit properly. We just did what we normally do and that customer was so impressed that she took a stack of my cards and started handing them out in the resort’s parking lot! That day, we had 5 or 6 new people come in saying they had been recommended by that woman in the parking lot.”
It is those kinds of customer experiences that Snow Toys hangs its hat on.
“We are very much the first thing people are going to associate with their skiing experience, and they tend to appreciate and remember us,” Crosby said. “We like to get a personal conversation going, remember their names and their faces. That’s a big part of why we are so unique.”
Snow Toys is staffed by a total of five individuals, each one a Banner Elk local with years of experience on the slopes. Working alongside Ric are Dylan Grindsteff, Tyler Edwards, Kyler Johnson and Greg Calloway.
“Our employees are locals, and they are the best resource to tell people what is around here. My team will bend over backwards, stay late waiting for late arrivals instead of closing, just to make sure someone has a good time on the slopes.”
Snow Toys offers a variety of rental equipment, from quality skis and snowboards, to safety equipment like goggles and helmets and apparel like snow jackets. They even have one of the area’s largest inventory of sleds. The shop also sells hats, gloves and socks to help keep warm in the elements.
Snow Toys offers customers the convenience of online reservations as well. With online reservations, requests can be made in advance so gear can be pulled for you when you arrive. This cuts down on your waiting time and gets you out on the mountain more quickly.
Ric carries all the top brands like Atomic, K2, Nordica and Marker.
The shop also offers multi-day rentals, which eliminates the need to go through the rental process for multiple days on the slopes, and you are welcome to pick up your rental equipment the night before your day on the mountain.
The small and mighty shop has a lot to offer any customer, from first timers to experienced slope shredders and what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in friendly service and dedication to customers.
“I treat everyone like they are family. I wouldn’t send anyone out on the slopes unless I was confident that they were properly equipped to be safe and have a good time,” Crosby said.
“It’s important to take the time to talk to people, and treat them the way you want to be treated.”
Snow Toys is located at 1757 NC 184 (Tynecastle Highway) in Banner Elk. For more information or to make reservations, call 828-898-4199 or visit their website here.