Marmot Mountain Works will close its doors in March after 36 years in Berkeley. Photos: Tracey Taylor

Specialist wilderness equipment store Marmot Mountain Works, which opened on Adeline Street in Berkeley in 1976, will close its doors permanently in March.

Founder and owner Lock Miller said changes in consumer buying habits and the state of the economy have led to a steady decline in sales over the past 5-10 years. The lack of a snow season so far this year was the final straw, he said. Marmot’s 12-strong staff will all lose their jobs.

“The internet is like a whole stack of stores in one corner and people go there to look for the best prices,” Miller said. “It doesn’t help that people are playing golf up in Tahoe right now.”

Tom Purcell, who has managed the store for the past 15 years, said employees have been scrabbling to try to keep the store open, looking to find a possible 11th-hour investor. “I don’t have high hopes — there is a limit to the number of millionaires who want to invest in brick-and-mortar businesses. But I also believe there are people who are passionate about this type of shop,” he said. “[The closure] is going to leave a hole in the Bay Area [mountain store] scene.”

The Marmot building on Adeline has distinctive "Storybook" style architecture

Marmot’s architecturally distinctive building, at 3049 Adeline Street, was built in 1923 as the Hull & Durgin funeral home. BAHA describes it as “one of Berkeley’s most remarkable examples of Storybook-style architecture”.

Miller owns the building and its ancillary structures and the plan is to find a new leaseholder for the Marmot space.

Miller, who now lives in Washington State, remodeled the store and managed it for 15 years. He said he is going to focus on his other Marmot Mountain Works store in Bellevue, WA which, he said, is larger and benefits from the region’s year-round snow conditions.

Purcell said the Berkeley store had suffered from confusion over its name. Marmot is also an apparel brand which Miller used to own. That manufacturing company has subsequently been bought and sold many times but retains no relationship with the Marmot Mountain Works store, which sells a variety of brands focused on back-country and cross-country skiing and “hard-core” mountaineering.  A store called Marmot, also not related to Miller’s stores, opened in San Francisco recently.

Aside from the internet, competitors to Marmot locally include REI and Any Mountain in Berkeley, and Sunrise Mountain Sports in Livermore.

Supporters of the store reacted with shock to the news of the closure on Marmot’s Facebook page. Thomas Wandall wrote: “I am really going to miss this shop and the community it fosters. Sad day.” And Allen Currano said: “Sad, sad news. Marmot is a true Berkeley institution and will be missed by many of us outdoor folks.”

The store is clearing its inventory with a big “gambler’s sale” in the run-up to shuttering. Miller said prices will keep being reduced between now and mid-March.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...