Track'n Trail
By Jeremy Derksen

Family Foundations

Father and son businesses may seem old fashioned these days, but that’s how Track ‘n’ Trail got its start as a specialty outdoor store in 1984. Since then, the store has launched many a young athlete and adventurer, sponsored Olympians such as Amanda Ammar, and played an instrumental role in backing the Canadian Birkebeiner.

Today, Bob Schilf continues to uphold the tradition he and his father, Horst Schilf, established so many years ago. “I still love it; I still love the industry,” he says. “It’s a really positive industry, good energy. The skiing, the hiking, the climbing, it’s all still really fun.”

Of the few good things to come of the recession that hit Edmonton in the early 80s, Track ’n’ Trail was one of them. After being laid off as an architect in ’82, Horst decided he was done with the field and decided to seek a new career.

“He came to us one day and said, 'would you like to open a store with me?'” Bob says. Less than a year later, they were opening shop. With that, Horst shifted from designing buildings to building outdoor experiences.

The staff and I are all participating in the sports that we sell. Nothing like experience, knowing something is going to work or not work because you’ve done it yourself. - Bob Schilf, owner
Climbing, backpacking, trail running and cross-country ski gear and apparel: Hanwag, Fischer, Swix, Arc’Teryx, Scarpa
Track 'n' Trail started as a father-son business and has grown to be an integral part of the community.

Outdoor Architects

Back then, few stores in Edmonton were meeting the demand for elite outdoor products. With their background in adventure, Hart and his sons understood the market—and more than 30 years, later they still do.

“Being around a long time helps,” says Bob. “The staff and I are all participating in the sports that we sell. [There is] nothing like experience, knowing something is going to work or not work because you’ve done it yourself.

“You’re selling an experience. If a customer comes in and you sell them the wrong gear, they’ve got their two week holiday … and they go out there and their equipment doesn’t perform for them, you’ve just created a really bad experience for them. That’s the only time a lot of people get. So I always say, 'sell them stuff that is going to make their experience.'”

While some customers assume that specialized independent stores charge higher premiums, Bob explains that’s not the case — the store price matches to its competitors, with the expert sourcing and advice that might be expected of a specialty shop. “Being a niche store, we have to make sure we really do our homework,” says Bob. “People have come to expect a little extra, and that’s what we give.”

Climbing, backpacking, trail running and cross-country ski gear and apparel: Hanwag, Fischer, Swix, Arc’Teryx, Scarpa
Track 'n' Trail sells sports equipment and innovative outdoor products at competitive prices

Brick by Brick

While Whyte Ave may have changed over the decades, Track ‘n’ Trail’s blue façade and classic Yardley Jones illustration are familiar mainstays. The key to that endurance, Bob believes, is the relationships that have been built over the years with their customers and friends in the sporting community.

“Succeeding as a brick and mortar store in today’s retail climate is difficult,” says Bob.

Even after Horst retired, he was still known to hang around the store, chatting up familiar customers and friends when they came in, inspiring young employees with his positivity, charm and experience. His passing in 2014 was felt by many in the community, but Bob is grateful for the opportunity the store gave them. Sharing the love of outdoor experiences has become Track ‘n’ Trail’s enduring family legacy.

“One of the happiest times was working side by side with my Dad,” he reflects. “I got to spend my days with my dad …  How many people get to do that?”

Climbing, backpacking, trail running and cross-country ski gear and apparel: Hanwag, Fischer, Swix, Arc’Teryx, Scarpa
Track 'n' Trail is located on the iconic Whyte Avenue strip in south Edmonton.
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