by Miriam Longobardi
When Skip Beitzel began working at Hickory & Tweed as a Horace Greeley High School freshman, he never dreamed he would one day own the store, let alone have the distinction of being named Citizen of the Year by the Armonk Chamber of Commerce. Yet, what started as regular family outfitting excursions (Skip, his parents and brother and sister are all avid skiers) soon led to Skip’s ongoing employment (he worked throughout his high school years, during college breaks and summers). And employment led to a deep and lasting friendship with former Hickory & Tweed owner Jimmy Ross.
After graduating college, Skip worked in the advertising business, living and working in New York City for several years. He had always kept in touch with Ross but was nonetheless completely taken by surprise when the two ran into eachother on vacation. Their chance encounter led to more than casual conversation; as they were catching up, Ross mentioned he was thinking of selling the store and asked if Skip might be interested in its purchase. At the time, Skip thought there was no way that his friend would really sell as he had founded the store and developed the business. He asked Ross’s wife if she thought her husband was really serious and she assured Skip that he was. That conversation sparked his interest, causing Skip to consider all the “what if’s.” Within six months, the transaction was complete! Jimmy Ross moved to Aspen, and Skip (reverse-commuting to Armonk until his apartment lease ended) found himself the proud new owner of the store in which he was practically raised.
Knowing the business he built was going to his long-time employee and friend must have been a source of comfort to Ross upon retiring. Unfortunately, retirement was all-too short-lived. Several years after moving to Aspen, Ross passed away. Skip’s sadness over this loss was still apparent to me when we spoke. “Jimmy taught me absolutely everything I know,” Skip recalls, speaking fondly of his late friend. “It’s still hard to believe he’s no longer with us.” Skip strives to maintain the wonderful traditions and standards of excellence that Ross began noting that the store’s continued thriving success is as much a testament to Ross’s mentorship as it is an ongoing personal and professional satisfaction.
Today, 25 years later, Skip and Hickory & Tweed continue to outfit generations of families. Skip’s wife Michaela is the buyer for the store and keeps the merchandise fresh and innovative. Skip and Michaela have three sons and they too are all avid skiers. The older two, Mac and Chase, both in their twenties, work in the city. Their younger son Ryder is in high school. In addition to his children, Skip says he has been blessed with mentoring many local young men and women who have worked for him over the years. Some of his employees have gone on to get married after having met and gotten to know one another in the store. In fact, Skip was recently at a wedding of a former employee who is one of four brothers, all of whom worked at Hickory & Tweed. Having siblings from the same family all coming to work for him is another testament to Skip’s character as a fair and caring employer.
Quality merchandise and outstanding customer service keep a loyal customer base. “In the fall, it is not unusual to have three generations of the same family all shopping here together. Grandparents with their children and grandchildren all share a sport together. Once we even had four generations!” Skip’s commitment to his customers and contribution to the community are well-known amongst the people of Armonk (and well beyond), so it is little wonder that he was recognized by the Armonk Chamber of Commerce with the prestigious Citizen of the Year award. Chamber of Commerce Vice-President Christopher Carthy describes Skip as someone in whom one can place a lot of trust. “Today buying a bike is a really big deal, much more so than years ago. When I went to buy a bike I went straight to Hickory & Tweed. I knew Skip would tell me everything I need to know,” he said. “When I need to bring the bike in for service appointments I know he stands behind what he sells.” Indeed, everyone who walks into his store knows they are in good hands with Skip Beitzel, and that they can look forward to many more years of excellent selection and service.
Miriam Longobardi is a freelance writer, fourth grade teacher and single mother of two daughters living in Westchester. A breast cancer survivor, she volunteers for the American Cancer Society, has completed four marathons and travels the world. Follow her on Twitter@writerMimiLong.