On the Job 24/7

Hoigaard’s employees are passionate about outdoor life, on and off the clock.
Hoigaard's employees Chris Johnson and Doc Drone are already thinking about the weekend.

Hoigaard’s is a leader in outdoor equipment and apparel, but it’s the outdoor sporting experience of staff members that sets this St. Louis Park retailer apart. From water sports to cycling, camping to skiing, three department experts share their passion for the outdoors. Discover how their athletic energy fuels their work and ignites excitement for the sporting life among Hoigaard’s customers.   Doc Drone, Paddle Sports Buyer Doc Drone has worked at Hoigaard’s for 33 years. He grew up camping with his family and continues to enjoy the outdoors. Drone became interested in paddling at age 16. “I wanted to paddle white water,” says Drone. He ventured out to paddle the Kettle and Vermillion rivers as well as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. In 1981, Drone put into Lake Superior for a stint sea kayaking. Since then, kayaking has become Drone’s sport of choice. “Canoes are typically tandem,” he says. “If I don’t have a canoe partner, I can always kayak alone.” Drone enjoys kayaking for pleasure and doesn’t necessarily compete outside of Hoigaard’s annual paddle derby races on Lake Calhoun. “I’ll jump into a canoe for that race,” says Drone. “But what is fun for me is getting my hands on new paddling gear. I get to do demos for the store and have people try new things.” One of the newest things is paddle boarding. Unlike kayaking, which provides a core and upper-body workout, paddle boarding is an all-over workout. “Your point of reference changes when standing instead of sitting,” Drone says. “And almost anybody can pick up paddle boarding relatively quickly. Once you learn to balance, it’s easy to do.” The most fulfilling part of Drone’s job is watching people get excited about trying new paddle sports. “It’s fun to get people outdoors in today’s techie world,” he says. “It’s also great when people pass on their enthusiasm for the outdoors to their friends and kids.”  Chris Johnson, Footwear Buyer Chris Johnson has been with Hoigaard’s for five years and is passionate about cycling, camping, canoeing and kayaking. His parents met at a wilderness camp near Ely, and Johnson has been immersed in camping his entire life. He completed the same wilderness camp experience as his parents at Camp Widjiwagan, a program that culminated in a 40-day canoe trip in the Canadian Arctic. Johnson also led youth through the Widjiwagan program during and after college. These days, Johnson bikes to work. “I’m not particularly competitive,” says Johnson. “Biking clears my mind. For me, sporting is about getting outdoors and having a good time.” Customers regularly ask Johnson how to get started in sporting or which higher-end equipment will help improve performance. “My personal experience helps people get outfitted with the right gear,” Johnson says. On the flip side, hearing about customer’s sporting activities gets Johnson excited to try new things. “I’ve been hearing about long bike rides like the MS 150 from Duluth to the Twin Cities,” he says. “That inspires me to push myself and hopefully ride with them sometime.”   Todd Brewer, Company President Todd Brewer has been with Hoigaard’s for six years and loves cross-country and alpine skiing. He attended Montana State University for Nordic skiing and says Montana is where he fell in love with alpine skiing. Back in Minnesota, Brewer participates in an adult ski race league. He and his wife also coach skiing for the Special Olympics. “I grew up in Winona with a whole family that cross-country skied,” Brewer says. “I stuck with it and still try to compete in one or two Nordic ski events per year.” To stay fit in the off-season, Brewer enjoys cycling, canoeing and stand-up paddling. These activities are more than casual for Brewer. He has participated in the MS 150, the Ironman spring bike ride and the City of Lakes Tri-Loppet triathlon, a unique event that includes paddling, running and mountain biking. “Being passionate about the sports Hoigaard’s represents gives me confidence when dealing with customers,” Brewer says. “We enjoy getting people to connect with sports. And I’ve benefited too. I probably would not have gotten involved with adult ski racing if it weren’t for meeting customers having so much fun with it.” & Hoigaard’s, 5425 Excelsior Blvd.; 952.929.1351; hoigaards.com. Details about the summer Paddle Derby are available on the website.