EYE ON BUSINESS: Passing of the torch at Adirondack Awards
LAKE PLACID — New business owners Tyler Merriam and Nick Prechel are continuing the decades-long legacy of a community shop in Lake Placid, an opportunity they say was made possible by the support of the local community.
Merriam and Prechel are now the third owners of Adirondack Awards, which was founded as a family-run business by the Abbotts in 1962 before Mark and Amy Ervin bought the shop in 2014. The shop, known for its customized trophies and awards, screen-printed T-shirts, and embroidered and engraved products, has had a few locations throughout the years — it was first located on Main Street before moving to Sentinel Road. The Ervins moved the shop to its current location on Saranac Avenue around six years ago.
Merriam, 34, and Prechel, 39, have known each other for around 11 years. They first met in graduate school while earning their master’s degrees in recreation management at SUNY Cortland, ended up becoming college roommates and managed to stay in touch over the last decade. Merriam said he’d always wanted to be a business owner, but he’s always wanted a business partner by his side. Prechel was always his ideal co-owner candidate.
“I’ve always thought, ‘there’s nobody I could go into business with other than Nick,'” Merriam said. “Our skills are pretty complementary — our work ethic and attention to detail, passion and everything are all really well-aligned. So it just ended up falling into place, time-wise, for both of us.”
Merriam saw the online listing for Adirondack Awards, which went up for sale this past fall, around March of this year. Not only did the listing pique Merriam’s interest, he knew the Ervins as his nearby Saranac Lake neighbors. A trip to Price Chopper carried Merriam’s inkling further when he ran into the Ervins and told them he’d seen the listing. They encouraged Merriam to purchase the business. When Merriam approached Prechel with the idea, he was half joking. But while Merriam had pitched a lot of business ideas to Prechel over the years, Prechel said this was the only one that “really clicked.”
Merriam and Prechel decided to transition away from their work at their respective jobs with the AuSable River Association and the National Park Service in South Dakota, and the newly-formed business partners officially bought Adirondack Awards on July 29.
Passing the torch
Despite their youth and newness to the awards business, Merriam and Prechel said they’ve not only felt supported by the local community — they believe that support helped make their purchase of and transition into operating Adirondack Awards a reality. Local clients have shown positivity toward the transition, and Prechel and Merriam are able to live nearby in Saranac Lake because of the generosity of friends. The business partners were also able to secure a private loan for the awards shop purchase through a family member. They’ve even gotten some guidance from local business owners and the Adirondack North Country Association throughout the transition. Merriam said he and Prechel used programs with ANCA’s North Country Center for Businesses in Transition and Center for Pandemic Response and received “incredibly helpful” assistance with understanding financing options and valuing and negotiating the business, as well as with the “nitty gritty” of numbers, financial projections and spreadsheets. He said ANCA’s CPR webinars weren’t just “warm, fluffy” sessions giving out information that he and Prechel already knew — they included pointers specific to individual businesses, not just a template.
“That supportive business environment around here has just been really cool,” Merriam said. “Everybody’s competing in many senses, but hopefully we can all do so fairly and ecumenically. At least that’s been my experience so far.”
If the business partners didn’t have so much support from the community, Merriam said, the purchase could have taken much longer and the store could have faced the liquidation of its assets. That could have been a hit to the community, which has relied on Adirondack Awards’ products for decades.
Merriam and Prechel said the Ervins have done a great job of “passing the torch” by helping out with the transition. The Ervins agreed in the closing contract to stay on for two months to train Merriam and Prechel, then to make themselves available for another year after that to answer any questions Merriam and Prechel might have via phone.
A new era
Prechel has a background in fine woodworking, along with service with the AmeriCorps, managing multimillion-dollar budgets and even professional trail crew experience. Merriam has a background in communications and nonprofits, along with management experience at multiple small businesses in the area. Both of the new business owners felt that their diverse career backgrounds complement one another and bring something to the awards shop’s table.
Prechel’s attention to detail and behind-the-scenes style makes him perfect for back-of-house operations, like working with the embroidery machine or the decades-old engraver.
Merriam’s communicative and outgoing nature makes him perfect for front-of-the-house operations, such as communications and marketing.
But together, Merriam and Prechel’s top strength and priority is serving the community by offering the quality products people are used to with the understanding that, for now, making people’s ideas a reality could take a little extra time.
“So much of life — just like business — is doing what you say you’re going to do to a quality you can do and a time frame you can do it in,” Merriam said.
They have all the purchase records, digitized artwork and documents with repeat customers’ needs, and Merriam said that once he and Prechel get everything completely organized, they believe Adirondack Awards could be a “one-stop shop” for new and old customers alike.
Merriam said that while some of the administrative systems at the awards shop might change, people in the community can expect Adirondack Awards to continue offering the same service at the same prices. He said that for any changes he and Prechel might want to make, they’re first going to get a feel for what their customer base does or doesn’t want.
The business partners are working seven days a week, from morning to night, just to keep up with the orders they’re receiving. Despite their lack of intentional marketing, they’ve already been tapped by the Adirondack Sports Council and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority for projects, including FISU-themed gear for the 2023 Winter World University Games. Eventually, Merriam and Prechel said, they’ll need some employees to help out, but for now they’re focused on learning the shop’s daily operations and equipment themselves.
Both Merriam and Prechel have an interest in community service, and they hope that once they nail down operations at the awards shop they’ll be able to focus on giving back to the community that made their business transition possible — Merriam floated adopting a trail as a business or donating to a local cause as examples.
“Whatever’s needed,” Merriam said.