In the tight-knit community of Armonk, Hickory & Tweed is a welcome retreat, a kind of journey back to an era when going to the local store was where shoppers chatted with the shop owner in an environment that was neither rushed nor impersonal.
Thankfully, that feeling still exists in this special store that has been a constant presence on the hamlet’s Main Street since 1961. Founded by ski enthusiast Jimmy Ross, the current owner, Skip Beitzel, has retained the store’s cozy, family feel.
Likening it to a ski lodge you’d find in Stowe Vt., it’s easy to appreciate the comparison. Shoppers can comfortably browse through a myriad of stylish winter fashions for men, women and children, all located on the thickly-carpeted first floor space. Navigate the store’s wooden stairs, with its log railings, and you’ll find a second floor housing bikes, skis, snowboards, accessories and more.
Since 1985, Beitzel has owned the business, but got his first taste of the Hickory & Tweed experience at age 13 when he took a part-time job sweeping floors. He, his parents and two siblings frequented the store often, looking for skis and other equipment for their trips to the slopes.
“It looked like a nifty place to be part of,” said Beitzel, promoted to a sales position before leaving for the University of Vermont, where he majored in psychology.
After graduating, Beitzel, a Chappaqua native, took a job in Manhattan at the advertising firm Young & Rubicam, where he was involved in both the creative aspects of the business and account management. Five years later, he learned that Ross was eager to sell Hickory & Tweed and retire to Aspen, and he jumped at the opportunity to buy the store.
Beitzel credits Ross for inspiring him and other young workers who passed through the doors.
“He taught us all how to treat customers and to provide a superior service,” Beitzel said, recalling a time when Ross, without hesitation, replaced a pair of skis that a customer returned after a season’s use.
Perhaps Ross’s greatest achievement was the creation of the store’s hallmark family ski and snowboard leasing program, Beitzel said. For growing children, Beitzel said the program provides families with new skis, snow boots and/or snowboards each year. In fact, the leasing program is currently serving a third generation of families in Armonk, who have come to love its convenience.
Leasing and all of the other services that Hickory & Tweed provides, including its bike and ski repair, has made the store a valuable resource to local customers and those who travel from as far away as Boston and Philadelphia, Beitzel noted.
The attributes of good old-fashioned honesty, reliability and service that Hickory & Tweed promotes have attracted a legion of loyal employees over the years, many of them coming from the same families. They’ve included Joe Petre, a former Armonk fire chief and master craftsman, who worked in the ski service center for close to 45 years, but also helped build numerous additions to the store. Petre died five years ago, but his son, Steve, also worked at Hickory & Tweed for a time, and now Steve’s son, Alex, is an employee.
Former employee Joan Morris, considered the “grand dame” of Hickory & Tweed, was also a longtime worker at the family-run establishment. Morris served as the store’s head fashion buyer, a job that Beitzel’s wife, Michaela, now holds.
While many local families cherish Hickory & Tweed as their very own neighborhood ski shop, it is also a quality bicycle shop. For the last two years, it has been voted “Best Bicycle Shop in the County” by the readers of Westchester Magazine, and it has also won multiple industry awards, Beitzel said. Hickory & Tweed sells all types of bikes, but focuses primarily on three major brands–Cannondale, Cervelo and Specialized.
These days, Beitzel is focused on the fast-approaching ski season, which begins after Thanksgiving. He enjoys this busy time, helping customers prepare for a sport that he and his family also participate in. But what he especially looks forward to is lots of the white stuff.
“In my business, I pray for snow,” he said.
Hickory & Tweed is located at 410 Main St. in Armonk. It is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Thursdays until 8 p.m.), Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information call 914-273-3397 or visit www.hickoryandtweed.com.