When Bevin Helm opened the doors of Eugene Gear Traders, the outdoor gear consignment shop that she owns and operates, on March 1, 2020, she had no idea that she would have to close the doors for weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 19 days later.
Eugene Gear Traders is one of many businesses that struggled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is now bouncing back as restrictions lift and vaccination rates rise. The shop closed on March 19, 2020, and was able to reopen again at the end of May 2020, when non-essential business restrictions were lifted.
Helm took the initiative to open the shop after moving back to Eugene from Bend in August 2019. Bend, which is known for a multitude of outdoor activities has a wide variety of second-hand and consigned outdoor gear. And despite Eugene having a larger population than Bend, she noticed the lack of second-hand outdoor gear available in the Eugene area.
“There are several consignment gear shops in Bend, and when we moved back here and realized there wasn’t one in August, I immediately started researching on how to get one going,” Helm said. “I couldn’t believe that there hasn’t been one already.”
Another motivation for Helm was the importance of consignment. Eugene Gear Traders is built on the values of “supply, explore, sustain.” Helm embodies these values by making the gear she sells as affordable as possible, often reducing costs to 50% of retail price or lower.
In addition to making the gear accessible at low costs, Eugene Gear Traders keeps used outdoor gear in circulation and out of landfills. Buying used rather than new gear can reduce the carbon footprint of clothing by 82%.
Helm has always been passionate about sustainability. She says that even if she hadn’t ended up creating Eugene Gear Traders, she would still be doing some kind of work in that field.
“If I were to go back and do it again, I would want to get a degree in Eco-textiles. I think having textiles and materials that are derived from recyclables or can be recycled, or can just be completely reused, that’s the future,” Helm explained. “We need to have a more usable system because what we’re doing isn’t sustainable.”
Eugene Gear Traders fills a need that Eugene has had for years, and it is clear from the success of Helm’s business that people are happy she’s filling that space.
“We have a little over 450 total consigners in Eugene,” she said. “I would say on average probably three to four people coming in and consigning things a day.” In the turbulent year that Eugene Gear Traders has been open, Helm has sold about 3,000 items to be reused.
Helm has been working in outdoor gear retail in various capacities for many years. She was the manager of a surf shop in Bend along the Oregon coast for three years; an apparel buyer for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; a bike apparel representative for a few years; and merchandiser and buyer for a golf club in Bend, before coming back to Eugene and starting Eugene Gear Traders.
She has also grown up in the outdoors, and that continues to influence her lifestyle. On some days, she will leave her house at 6:00 am in order to get a surf session in at Florence Jetty before coming back to Eugene to open the shop at 12:00.
Helm wants to make the outdoors more accessible and sustainable for her community, and Eugene Gear Traders helps her to do that.
“The most important thing is that it’s a community-supported business,” she said. “I just can’t express enough that I want people to feel like they have a stake in it, and that they’re choosing to be sustainable.”
Find more information about Eugene Gear Traders at eugenegeartraders.com or visit the store at 233 W 5th Ave, Eugene OR 97401.