Lori Ambur (far left) and Lori Wright (far right) are closing their snow and skate shop, Newt and Harold's, after nearly 30 years in business.
Lori Wright and Lori Ambur opened Sports Exchange, on Broadway Avenue, with $500 each. That was in 1985, and the pair—then 26 and 27 years old, respectively—specialized in selling new and used sporting goods.
By the late '80s, customers started asking for snowboards. In the early '90s, they wanted skateboards, too. When the 750-square-foot shop got too cramped, Wright and Ambur looked next door to a transmission shop owned by two guys in their late-50s and early-60s.
"They were great old guys," Wright said. "At the time, there were lots of transmission shops opening in town, and they couldn't compete. They didn't want to do cheap, they wanted to do quality service work. So we made them an offer and ended up leasing their space."
Those two "old guys" were named Newt and Harold, so Wright and Ambur named their snowboard and skate shop in their honor.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Sports Exchange is long gone and Newt and Harold's has established itself as a Boise landmark—one that continually won for Best Local Board Shop in Boise Weekly
's annual Best of Boise poll. But Newt and Harold's
is going the way of Newt and Harold: Wright and Ambur announced today that they're closing the longtime shop at 1021 Broadway Ave.
"We've had a blast; it's provided us a great life for 30 years," Wright told Boise Weekly
. "It's been a success, it's just that we're getting a little older and the industry has changed so much in the last five years."
Specifically, she said, retail has changed with more shoppers going online to get their gear.
"The Internet has had some big effects over the past 10 years," Wright said. "Some retailers have changed with it—we're one of the retailers that wanted to keep it simple. ... We just can't compete against [that]."
Compounded with changing consumer habits, Wright added that erratic winter weather patterns have altered the business for winter sports equipment.
"Snow is such a huge part of our business; I hate to use the word 'global warming,' but things have changed," she said. "I don't want to blame it on too much. It really comes down to making a change because of age."
Winding down the business may take between 30 and 40 days.
"Since we've never done this before, we don't know how long this is going to take," she said, adding that though the shop will close, she and Ambur will still own the building.
Beginning Friday, Aug. 22, inventory will be marked 20-50 percent off. Newt and Harold's will host a goodbye party/auction at a date yet to be announced, with proceeds benefiing improvements to Rhodes Park—a cause that Wright looks forward to championing.
The Boise Skateboard Association
, in partnership with the Boise Parks and Recreation Department
, is embarking on a redesign of Rhodes Park expected to cost about $1 million, with $250,000 coming from the city. The rest is being collected by donation
through the Idaho Community Foundation. That's where Wright comes in.
"Personally, I'm going to work on that right out of the gate—trying to raise more money," she said.
For Wright, it's a way to stay connected to a community that, in many ways, she and Ambur helped foster as much as it fostered them.
"It's kind of unbelievable that two women could be in the snowboard and skateboarding business for 30 years," Wright said. “The big thing I want to say is 'thank you so much' to Boise, we could never have done this if this community did not support us. ... We were all cogs in that wheel of making snowboarding and skating a really fun thing for people.”