It was a long journey but with the right decisions, Mike Davis became a successful entrepreneur as the owner of Crabbe Mountain and Fredericton’s beloved outdoor shop The Radical Edge.
Davis grew up in Fredericton but his dad was from Harvey. This is where it all began, at a cottage on his grandparents’ farm.
“Every summer we would move out there right after school. From as long as I can remember until Grade 10,” he said. “School would be over in June and we were gone. We wouldn’t be home until labour day.”
He said it was hard to socialize, but it made him and his friends make up their own fun. They’d go fishing, camping and hiking.
Davis was also involved in Scouts and spent years in leadership roles within the organization.
“I like being outside, but I also love being handy,” he said. “I’m also a doer.”
He was always the one in his group of friends to actually do the things they all dreamed of. He was the one to “fire things up” and plan trips or follow through on ideas.
Davis worked for what he wanted. He sold gourds and strawberries from the family garden to make some extra cash, upon his father’s suggestion.
“When I was in high school my father got me into windsurfing inadvertently,” he said. “There was a sailboard shop in Fredericton back in 1985. It was closing down and I said, ‘Where will I get all my stuff?’”
His father co-signed on a loan to purchase the current inventory and find a new location to start a business.
“I honestly can’t remember whether he was nuts … I mean I don’t come from a family with money,” he said. “Him co-signing on a loan was a big deal.
“Maybe he saw that I had some sense of maturity or something. Which I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure I saw that when I was at that age. I was a very typical high schooler.”
Davis said they weren’t making tons of money, but just enough to pay the bills and be successful.
However, the business was put on hold so Davis could pursue a degree in Economics and Finance at the University of Western Ontario. However, he soon realized it wasn’t exactly for him.
“I did some accounting work for a summer job once and I said, ‘Oh this is awful.’”
Davis and his friends started another shop in Fredericton called Sun, Surf and Dirt on Regent Street. They sold mountain bikes, beach clothing and sailboards.
“Sailboarding had died, that was gone,” he said.
After that venture, The Radical Edge was born. Davis decided the business needed to have a broader appeal. It carried things families would be interested in, like hiking and camping gear.
“It goes back to, ‘how can you possibly make a living at this?’” he said.
But he couldn’t do it alone. Mary Doherty, his wife, helped Davis with both Sun, Surf, and Dirt, and The Radical Edge. She now goes by Mary Davis.
Since then, The Radical Edge has gone on to be a huge supporter of the Fredericton outdoors community. They’ve donated prizes and money to events such as the Fredericton Marathon, and even the Banff Film Festival.
In fact, Davis supported the film festival when it first started in Fredericton. Although worried about how to afford it, Davis said it was more important to give Fredericton the opportunity to have something great.
“For three years straight we said ‘don’t worry about it, just run it.’ We will make a donation to the club and cover it … That’s what we evolved into, making sure we have those great events here,” he said.
The Radical Edge no longer funds the festival but they still support it and the University of New Brunswick Rock and Ice Club which runs it.
The club provides rock climbing events for both University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University students.
Eric Sloan, vice-president external for the club said The Radical Edge often helps them when they put on competitions or other climbing-related events.
“Essentially they provide us with discounted prices in retail for any prizes we get.” he said. “Whether that’s prizes for Banff or for any of our competitions we do.
“We’re very small, we’re not-for-profit, and our goal is to break even every year. Running competitions and giving away prizes … it would be a lot harder to do if we didn’t have that discount for The Radical Edge.”
Saving the Day
In 2015, Crabbe Mountain was going to shut down. This created a stir in the Fredericton skiing community because the next closest ski hill is Poley Mountain in Sussex.
To the relief of many, Davis bought Crabbe. This was a big step, but Davis said it was one which would make Fredericton better.
“For me, the value of Crabbe Mountain as an amenity to the area is extremely important,” he said. “If we look at where we want Fredericton to be in five years’ time, and where we are today, one of the things people think is ‘I wonder if there’s a place where I can go to teach my kids how to ski?’”
Davis said skiing is a sport families do together, so Crabbe needs to serve that need.
“I thought it was super important. So we hunkered down and got it done.”
Davis worked on new ways to give back to the community with skiing. After purchasing a new set of rentals for the mountain, he didn’t know what to do with the remaining used pairs … at first.
“You have 200 sets of arguably junk,” he said. “So what do you do with them? The typical response would be to put them up at a ski sale like we have here every year for $50.”
But Crabbe Mountain’s general manager came up with an idea to get more people to join the skiing community.
“We have a program now at Crabbe called ‘learn the lifestyle.’ For $200 you get those skis, three lessons and three days at the ski hill,” he said.
Davis said the skis are leaving in the hands of the community and the program is effective. He also said he’s grateful to be working with a team of people who are constantly pitching new ideas.
“When he came up with that idea, I was like ‘Damn!’” Davis said.
Worth the risk
Connor Moore, a St. Thomas student and avid snowboarder said Crabbe was his favourite mountain around. He said snowboarding to him is more than just a sport, it contributes to his mental health.
“It’s one of the biggest things in my life … if I couldn’t snowboard at Crabbe it would put a damper on my mood,” he said. “When I heard it was shutting down I was pretty worried.
“It’s almost like your house burning down to me.”
Moore said he’s glad it was purchased by a local who knows the community.
“I think if anybody, even outside of province, was taking over it there would be a worry if it would even be a ski hill. Or will the outside management be able to put in the necessary effort into Crabbe Mountain … for the quality you can expect there,” Moore said.
Moore also said they’ve been a big part of the Fredericton outdoors community.
“They’ve always been a big sponsor of events,” he said.
But what motivates Davis day-to-day, after being in the game for so long?
“The team I work with on a daily basis. I never wake up in the morning before work and go ‘ugh,’’ he said. “It’s great to be blessed with this kind of opportunity.”
In fact, Davis said he sees himself in some of the people he works with. Including the general manager of Crabbe Mountain, Jordan Cheney.
“He’s super fun, he’s just great. He’s like a young me,” he said. “It’s neat to see him. If I can be a mentor to him and see him as successful as I’ve been fortunate to be … and he will be. He absolutely will be.”
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