Local lady Lori Wright has been one of the biggest advocates and supporters of local women’s snowboarding for years. Her heart for people and community is astounding and it shows in how she lives life and does business. Her and co-owner Lori Ambur run and operate one of Boise’s premier skate and snowboard shops – Newt & Harold’s, known to locals as “Newts”. If you have spent any amount of time with Lori, you will quickly realize her zeal for women’s issues and ensuring they get a platform to be heard and recognized. Newts does not shy away from including women on their snowboard team and will use whatever resource necessary to help support female snowboarding. We were honored to feature such an amazing lady this month and we are even more blessed to have her (and Newts) in our local community. Here’s what she had to say..
SBM: Tell us about the history of Newts and its transition to the ‘Best of Boise Board Shop’ for several years running.
LW: Lori Ambur and I started Sports Exchange in June of 1985. We sold used products and equipment – everything from bowling balls to kayaks. In 87’, we started getting requests for snowboards. Since it was such a new sport, there wasn’t any used equipment so we started snowboarding. This was prior to women’s gear, so we started on 150 and 160 cm length boards. It was a miracle we ever learned how to ride.
Eventually we realized it was more profitable to have different sizes and quantities of new product. We began selling new skis, golf clubs, bikes, etc. It soon became evident that we loved snowboarding and wanted to move the store in that direction. As far as skateboarding goes, when Spike’s Skate Shop on 8th Street closed, a friend of ours came by the store and told us that we really needed to carry skate product. We were already selling snowboards so we thought it would go hand in hand. We ended up hiring our friend to manage the skate side of business. In 1992, Newt and Harold’s opened as a specialty snowboard skateboard store.
Newts has always been a product of the great people who have worked with us. The individuals we get to work with on a daily basis are people that love snowboarding and skating. We get to share in that love all day long.
SBM: As a shop owner, you’ve seen the transition of women’s snowboarding throughout the years, how do you believe it has changed/evolved?
LW: Women were participating in snowboarding since the beginning of the sport. However, the industry started making women’s specific snow product about the time they started bringing women on as professionals. I still remember the first Sims ‘Shannon Dunn’ board I rode. It made a huge difference. The combination of women’s specific product and women becoming a part of the industry as pro’s, owners and riders has made it easy for women to participate.
SBM: Where would you like to see women’s snowboarding go?
LW: I hope to see women continue to be a vibrant part of the sport. We are right there with men as far as trick capability. Personally, I hope we all keep sharing our love for the sport so more people can enjoy snowboarding.
SBM: You are co-owner with Lori Ambur—what is it like being a female owned company? What challenges have you two faced being a female owned business with a predominately male clientele base?
LW: We are lucky to be in such an open and accepting industry. Most of the young men I work with don’t question why we own a snowboard/skate shop. Women in the industry are respected. Some mighty mites have led the way for us such as Donna Burton. She and Jake continue to open doors for women. Our first female representative was Krista Moroge, who also happened to be the first female rep for Burton.
That does not mean there are not challenges for females in the industry. If we continue to show up and do a great job, we will continue to gain ground. Working in a youthful industry has its advantages, the young men and women coming up are not as limited as my generation.
SBM: What are some negatives you have seen with the burgeoning popularity of snowboarding?
LW: Every industry goes through change. When snowboarding took off in the early 90s, it was a fun small industry. As it grew, big business became a reality and distribution started to be a thorn in our side. When snowboards or skateboards are sold from places that sell printers, books and cheap food, we are not doing ourselves any favors in terms of keeping people in the sport. We need the first experience to be epically fun.
SBM: Newts takes part in a diverse set of community-oriented projects and benefits, where does the desire to be so community-based stem from? Not many local shops seem to branch out the way Newts does, or so it seems anyway.
LW: We love Boise and appreciate getting to be a part of things. We try to stay involved in the snowboard and skateboard communities. Our role models in local business are Georges and Idaho Mountain Touring, they continue to provide opportunities for locals to compete and/or ride. We watched how they did business and wanted to emulate that model.
SBM: Do you think shops without girls on their team are limiting themselves?
LW: I don’t see limitation with diversity. It is our differences that provide depth. Newts’ team is young and old, male and female. Our only requirement is that their passion is for riding or skating and that they represent those in a positive way. If shops don’t support women they are missing 40% of the market.
SBM: What are some changes you’d like to see within local snowboarding?
LW: Man, I love it when the whole community comes together for an event. It seems like we see some of that at the resort level, such as Little Ski Hill’s ‘Banked Slalom’ event. It would be so great to think of an event that little kids could enter with their parents – something big and fun during springtime.
SBM: What are some important women’s issues locally that people need to put more focus towards?
LW: Wow there is so much going on at the State level; I do not know where to start. This year there were several ridiculous and illegal bills put forward and voted on. No matter where one stands on individual issues, everyone needs to be involved by voting and writing our local and state Representative’s.
SBM: How has Newts contributed to the equality of women in snow/skate sports?
LW: Hmm, hopefully by being shop owners, businesswomen and snowboarders. I know many women who have been in business and fought for women on all fronts prior to Lori and I opening Newts.
SBM: Tell us a little about you – your interests, hobbies, goals for the shop, etc…
LW: I love to get outdoors whether biking, snowboarding, camping, hiking with friends and family. We have a new dog that requires a ton of running. For the most part it’s all good, even work is good most of the time.
Thank you so much for being such a supportive part of local women’s snowboarding. We sure are grateful for all you and Lori Ambur have done! If you have yet to check out Newt & Harold’s, stop on in and say hello. They are located at 1021 S Broadway Ave, next to Boise State’s Football Stadium.