Edge of the World has been a staple in the snowboarding community in Fernie for 20 long years. The old school snowboards that decorate the shop’s Second Avenue location are a testimony to owner Greg (G-Money) Barrow’s love of the sport and its history.
Barrow moved to Fernie from his home in North Carolina in 1999. In 1981, he started a snowboard shop in North Carolina, “one of the very first snowboard shops in all of North America,” he said.
Ever the snow enthusiast, Barrow “wanted to get to where there was some good snow and some good terrain,” so he and his then-wife started the search. They travelled all throughout the United States, searching for fresh powder and challenging terrain. Barrow said they weren’t even considering Canada until he heard from his friends and snowboard legends Craig Kelly and Jason Ford.
“They were both part owners of Island Lake Lodge and they both said, ‘you ought to go to Fernie’ and so we did.”
As soon as he arrived in Fernie, Barrow immediately fell in love and decided that Fernie was the place for him. In 1999, he made the move and remembers his introduction to B.C. winter very fondly.
“The very first year that I moved here in 1999, the hill did not open until almost Christmas. It was just dry, no snow,” he said. “And then about three or four days before Christmas, it started snowing and it got opened and it snowed every day until the middle of February. It was amazing. It was like six or seven of the best weeks of my life. I was like ‘oh my gosh, this is what British Columbia is like.’ I still reflect back to that a lot.”
The process to open Edge of the World was not an easy one, according to Barrow. Even though he loved Fernie, there was one problem. It was in Canada and he was not Canadian.
“That was a long, hard process to get to own a business in Canada but we just persevered and made it happen,” reflected Barrow. “We got turned away every way you can think of and we just said ‘no, we’re going to do it’ and we just kept trying until we made it possible.”
So, finally able to move forward with launching his business, Barrow set up shop. Their first location was where the Elk Valley Gymnastics Club now practices. Barrow remembered that it was the only location available in town and that it was just an “old, empty warehouse” at the time. They renovated the space, adding an indoor skate park and a Mexican diner and eventually bought the building.
Reflecting back on their original location, Barrow said “we survived but not quite. The business was just about to go under and I was either going to just fold it up and then this space became available and so we thought, let’s try this one last time.”
The move onto Second Ave. happened seven years ago and according to Barrow, “it’s been great.”
Edge of the World is now very well recognized throughout Fernie and a staple in the Second Avenue retail community. Looking back on 20 years of business, Barrow credits the success of the shop to his staff.
“I’ve always had great staff. That’s where it all starts. They are just wonderful people and they care about people. They are kind and that’s where it all comes from,” he said. “And of course they all love snowboarding and mountain biking and everything in the outdoors. That’s why they’re here. You know, it’s the same reason I’m here. We have that common thread and of course Fernie has that common thread too so it’s the staff, really. That’s who makes us what we are.”
To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Barrow invited almost every single staff member in the store’s history to come out and celebrate. After looking back into the records, they discovered that Edge of the World has had 86 staff, many of them seasonal workers, Barrow pointed out. They were able to get in touch with 80 of those staff and invited them, their partners and their families to come to Fernie and celebrate.
On Saturday, December 7 about 100 people gathered to commemorate the occasion. The festivities began at Fernie Alpine Resort, where about 50 people took advantage of the lift passes Edge of the World offered and hit the slopes together for a ride. After a rainy run down the hill and a group photo at the Bear’s Den, there was a celebratory dinner.
“The 20th anniversary, it was so sentimental and there was a lot of tears and there were so many people who hadn’t seen each other in 15 years or longer and it was unbelievable,” Barrow recalled. “It was just a very sweet experience.”
Barrow said that the event was a great way to socialize, reminisce and reconnect with his fantastic staff. At the dinner, Bruce Nelson, Edge of the World’s very first employee presented Barrow with a custom made, wooden snowboard, signed by the staff and reading “G$ – thanks for 20 years of Fernie shred.”
After the dinner, the group moved to the shop where they played their famous rock, paper, scissors game.
“We had rock paper scissors to win a snowboard of your choice” said Barrow. “And we’ve done that for 20 years but the staff has never been allowed to participate and so we did it for the staff this time and that was really a lot of fun.”
If there is one thing that Barrow takes away from his experience with Edge of the World, it’s how important it is to have an incredible staff.
“It’s just the employees,” he said. “They are just such incredible people and I’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to have good employees and be able to recognize that in an interview. I think that’s maybe my only talent as a business owner.”