Corona Diaries #21 Mark Deming, NRS (Usa)
Outside, rivers are starting to flow, spring is around the corner, and the sun is shining high. Yet around the world, many are grounded at home and it seems likely that others soon will be. Though difficult, let’s repeat it, folks this is THE THING TO DO! It is necessary and worth it!
So, we at Kayak Session decided to take the opportunity to catch up with our friends in the whitewater community and see how they are coping across the globe.
Today we talk with NRS marketing director Mark Deming who is on lockdown in Idaho while coping with keeping the 48-year-old company afloat and helping organize the new mission NRS has taken with the Covid Pandemic in the region.
« We are open and delivering. Because NRS serves governments around the world through its safety and rescue division, we have been declared an “essential business” that should keep operating during the crisis. »
How zit Mark, where are you and what is the situation like where you are?
I’m happy to say that all of us at NRS are safe and healthy. We are fortunate to have our headquarters in Moscow, Idaho, which is a rural area with, so far, very few cases of COVID-19. The weather is warming up and rivers are starting to run, so we’re all doing our best NOT to look at the gauge. The safest and smartest thing to do right now is to stay close to home and practice social distancing, so that’s what we’re doing.
I’m currently isolated at home with my wife and three sons. To keep myself busy and sane, I’ve been building new trails at our local mountain bike area with my boys. I’m also working on a pretty savage lockdown mustache. There is a decent amount of day drinking going on, I’m not gonna lie.
Is NRS open and delivering at all at the moment?
Yes, we are open and delivering, but everything is different. Because NRS serves governments around the world through its safety and rescue division, we have been declared an “essential business” that should keep operating during the crisis. (In addition to water safety and rescue equipment, we have also begun distributing medical protective equipment to help local hospitals and first responders.)
So, we are receiving and shipping orders, but our office is empty, our Moscow retail store is closed, and all of our reps are off the road. The majority of our employees are working from home. Those who can’t work from home, such as warehouse workers, are being highly cautious to observe proper spacing and follow guidelines for protection.
Working remotely has been an adjustment for everybody. I think we all miss seeing our friends and coworkers every day. Awkward Zoom meetings are really no substitute. Also, the schools are closed, so those of us who have kids are being teachers along with doing our day jobs.
« Terry got knocked down pretty hard by a virus that was presumed to be COVID-19 and developed the early stages of pneumonia…he is recovering well, feeling healthy and getting back to some of his hobbies at home »
We heard that Terry Feigenbutz, NRS international sales manager, got pretty sick. Terry is well loved in the paddle world, how is he doing?
Terry got knocked down pretty hard by a virus that was presumed to be COVID-19 and developed the early stages of pneumonia. He self-quarantined at home and rode it out. It was pretty ugly there for a bit, but I’m glad to report that Terry is recovering well, feeling healthy and getting back to some of his hobbies at home, like cooking and working in his garden. Terry got a lot of love and support from the community during his illness and is very grateful.
How has Covid-19 impacted your plans for the season?
Like most companies in the paddle industry, our plans for 2020 have been completely disrupted. Many of our retailers have closed, outfitters have shut down, paddlers are staying home, and a lot of people have lost their jobs. It’s a rough time out there, to say the least, but what matters right now is just getting through this as a community, staying safe and healthy and outlasting the virus. We’re lucky to be relatively secure at NRS and able to keep supporting our customers and employees.
« Paddlers will be stoked to get back on the water after being stuck inside for so long, so we may see a rebound in demand for equipment at that time. »
What is your prediction for this year – are you pessimistic, reasonably optimistic?
There is no way to predict what this year will bring, but we are hopeful that business will pick up again later in the season, assuming travel restrictions are eventually relaxed and businesses are allowed to re-open. Paddlers will be stoked to get back on the water after being stuck inside for so long, so we may see a rebound in demand for equipment at that time. It might be a long time before we’re back to business-as-usual, but hopefully we can get back to something more like life-as-usual and be on the water again.
How are you guys trying to go around the difficulty we all face at the moment?
For NRS, it all comes down to standing by our values as a company. We are focusing on doing everything we can to support our customers, employees and communities. When this is all over, we will only be as strong as our relationships, so we are working to keep those relationships solid.
Like everybody else in the industry, we’re scrambling make ends meet right now, but we’re trying to avoid some of the more drastic measures that could do long-term damage. Online direct sales are normally a small part of our business, but that has been helping us keep the lights on while shops are closed. We are also cutting spending as much as possible, which is helped by the fact that trade shows and travel have been canceled. Finally, we are utilizing available resources to help cover payroll and meet expenses. Our employees are our number one asset, and we are doing all we can to stand by them.
« The success of our business at NRS depends on the success of our retailers. So, we are doing everything we can to help shops survive this crisis by serving them as a partner. »
In what way can you help the retail business cope with the current situation?
The success of our business at NRS depends on the success of our retailers. So, we are doing everything we can to help shops survive this crisis by serving them as a partner.
It’s all about listening, being responsive to the challenges they’re facing, and using all the tools that are available to us to support them. It has been inspiring to see the creativity and resilience shown by businesses facing probably the most difficult period in our industry’s history.
NRS has also taken on new challenges with the Covid in your area, tell us more about it.
NRS was contacted by a local hospital seeking help finding the medical protective equipment that it needed to keep its staff safe during the coronavirus outbreak. We were able to source equipment through our network of suppliers and distribute that equipment from our warehouse in Idaho. That process was pretty crazy, as it required dealing with very overworked government officials to secure the necessary certifications. Lots of people worked extremely hard to make that happen.
We have several shipments of respirators, masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies arriving over the next several weeks, which will go out immediately to the people who need them. It has been great to see the outdoor industry step up to help the people on the front lines of the pandemic. We’re just happy that we could do our part.
« Idahoans don’t like being told what to do by the government, ha! But, actually, people have been quite responsible and are taking the stay-at-home order seriously. »
What is the Idaho population reaction to the stay home – is it respected?
Idahoans don’t like being told what to do by the government, ha! But, actually, people have been quite responsible and are taking the stay-at-home order seriously. We are lucky to have a relatively small population and lots of open space for social distancing.
Any words of wisdom for your fellow paddlers across the world?
As paddlers, we know the value of working together and having each other’s back. The same concepts that keep us safe on the river apply in the coronavirus situation: be prepared, know your stuff, make informed decisions, and trust one another. Let’s get everybody to the eddy, collect our shit and go from there.
ok thanks Mark, and nice coronastache by the way…!