An adventure in clothing retail

Higher Ground's staff know how to make a big splash

It was the middle of summer and despite the heat Higher Ground’s manager Greg Snoddy was sporting a bright orange insulated snowsuit as he walked along Yonge Street.

“It was the hottest day in August,” Snoddy says. “I had a hood on and I synched it in and it was a one-piece great big orange gigantic suit and I walked down to Sporting Life and asked if they had any long underwear to go with it.”

Kevin Roher, who opened and founded Higher Ground in 1987, says their competitor is actually good for business.

“Believe it or not, Sporting Life is a great draw for us,” he says. “We both complement each other, we send people there and they send people here.”

After nearly a quarter of a century at Yonge Street and Castlefield Avenue they recently relocated to a larger showroom a few blocks north near Sherwood Avenue.

Roher believes Higher Ground is unique because they offer both technical outerwear and casual lifestyle products whereas he says most other stores offer one or the other. He says all their lines are handpicked, including Icebreaker Merino, North Face, Canada Goose, Patagonia and Eagle Creek.

“We really are just a store that caters to people who are outdoor enthusiasts, who travel a lot,” he says. “Travel agents actually use our store as referral for people who are going away, whether it’s going to Africa on a safari or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.”

Snoddy, who has been the manager since 1989, says their customer base has also grown worldwide through online and phone orders.

Roher says they train staff to educate customers about the products because he doesn’t like it when someone buys something and doesn’t wind up using or wearing it.

“We want people to walk out of here and feel really good about their purchase and be happy about what they’ve bought and know where they can use their jacket and what it’s good for,” he says. “We plug them in for the best possible jacket for the proper activity.”

Just south of their new location Roher’s wife, Joanne, has been running Higher Ground for Kids since 1987 at Yonge Street and Keewatin Avenue.

In addition to outerwear, she says the spin-off store features trendy and casual clothing options for youth.

“We really specialize in the tween market, which is size 7 to 16, where there seems to be a real lack of offerings for that age,” she says. “We also have a baby department and a toddler department so we kind of cover the gamut in here.”

She says they take pride in having a boys department with a lot of selection since many stores focus primarily on the other sex. She says they carry jeans, dress pants, shirts, suits, ties and more.

Although she says they are also a destination store since they have unique offerings, she says it’s been great to be a part of the neighbourhood as well.

“It’s a really nice family community and we have been servicing this community for about 23 years and we have a really wonderful and loyal clientele that keeps coming to us year after year and their kids grow out of our store and then we have new families that come,” she says. “We like to help dress families in our area for all life’s occasions.”

About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Nov 1 2011 3:20 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto