Beacon of Community Spirit

By Shanie Matthews | Monday, June 12, 2023

Nestled in the Sierra Nevadas, Mountain Hardware & Sports is more than a hardware store. It's the one place you can depend on when mountain life gets tough.

As the winter of 2023 showed us, Lake Tahoe is both beautiful and mighty. Her storms easily close roads and shut down power. But despite these challenges, Tahoe residents know that Mountain Hardware & Sports will be open and ready to lend a hand when the going gets rough. A one-stop shop for everything you need to live and thrive in the mountains, its four locations scattered across the region are beloved staples for locals and visitors. But what truly sets Mountain Hardware apart is its unique approach to running its business.

Founded in 1977 by long-time friends and Truckee locals Dane Skutt, Greg Hovorka, Howard Jones and John Feighery, Mountain Hardware & Sports was established to provide a shopping experience that offered unparalleled customer service. The founders also aspired to create a space that was not just for the community but also by the community. In 2001 they embarked on a mission to prioritize the community aspect by establishing an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Initially 49% employee-owned, the company became majority employee-owned in 2005, a few years after it opened its Blairsden location. By 2013 the company had acquired Truckee Rents, its equipment rental business, while also achieving 100% employee ownership, with more than 100 employee owners.

Employee ownership instills a strong sense of passion in the employees, which is rooted in the mission that started back in 1977. The employees have a unified and cohesive goal to serve the community and provide outstanding customer service. The company encourages employees to think and act like owners, understanding that daily and weekly contributions can positively impact the company's performance and the growth of individual ESOP accounts.

Mountain Hardware President Doug Wright explains, “Our staff has a lot of autonomy to make decisions. We encourage everyone to be involved and engaged; I want them to drive home at night and say, ‘I own part of that company.’”

During 22 years as an ESOP, Mountain Hardware’s employee ownership has made a profound impact. The employee owners have seen their colleagues retire and use their account balances to enjoy their golden years. Younger employee owners who left the company have been able to pay for their education by tapping into their employee ownership account balances. 

“What I love most about working here is the sense of security for my future,” says employee owner Cynthia Lamanna. “Not just because of our ESOP and our 401K, but because we all work so hard here.”

Mountain Hardware’s commitment to the people of Tahoe is evident in its transparent culture, in which each employee owner understands how the company is performing. The company encourages and supports its employees to make a difference in their communities. Mountain Hardware is involved with numerous organizations, and its logo is a banner commonly seen at ballfields in Truckee, Sierraville and Incline Village. The Truckee and Incline Village stores offer donation boxes at the checkout registers for their respective Humane Society and Pet Networks, reflecting their commitment to their furry neighbors. 

“Being able to give back to the community is one of the things that makes me proudest to work here,” says employee owner Jenni Valdivia. “We’re not just a business, we’re a part of the community, and it feels good to be able to support local initiatives and causes.”

Mountain Hardware's core value is to “walk the talk as servant leaders,” a value that is evident in the daily tasks of every employee owner. The company takes pride in finding the supplies its customers need and having the items they want to accomplish their bucket list goals. 

“Understanding that our company's success is directly related to and affects our personal success creates a deeper commitment from our associates to our customers and our community,” Vice President Heather Svahn says. “When you own where you work, your commitment each day will help grow the company's value. When the interstate is closed, our associates come to work to help our customers. We understand our communities' immediate needs and appreciate the responsibility we have to serve our neighbors. We take great pride in being able to deliver tire chains to someone's home or a generator when we are going through power outages. It isn't about getting the sale, but rather helping a neighbor.”  

More than a successful business, Mountain Hardware is a glowing example of what can be achieved when people come together, driven by shared values and a passion for excellence. It's a true embodiment of the remarkable spirit that makes Lake Tahoe so special.

TRUCKEE: (530) 587-4844 | 11320 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA
SOARING RANCH: (530) 563-2950 | 10001 Soaring Way, Suite 105, Truckee, CA
INCLINE VILLAGE: (775) 831-2020 | 910 Tahoe Boulevard, #103, Incline Village, NV
BLAIRSDEN: (530) 836-2589 | 282 Bonta Street, Blairsden, CA

About the Author Shanie Matthews
A longtime Lake Tahoe local, Shanie is a freelance writer, Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher and positivity warrior. A true lover of the the gorgeous Tahoe region, she connects with the serenity of the mountains via skiing, biking and backpacking. She also believes in the gift of yoga and its way of allowing one to become his or her true best self, a passion she shares with the world with her online yoga studio.