Born and raised a Saint Paul Como Park boy.
While going to art school at the U of Minnesota during the early 70’s, I worked at Sitzmark ski shop. That’s where I first got my hands dirty tuning skis. It was a fun gig. The alpine ski biz in those days was pretty loose. Not corporate, just mom and pop shops with lots of personality. Worked hard, played hard.
First tuning skis by hand then machining - hand files and belt sanders.
Eventually college demands you graduate. So I did.
I did my art and had shows, made some money but the ski shop paid the bills. Got married and had kids and bills got bigger. Making art took a backseat.
After working a couple of larger ski/sporting goods stores chasing a bigger paycheck, I got pulled back into the mom and pop ski world – a good thing. Ahvo and Finnsisu with the focus on everything xc became my employer. Working there was certainly not for the money. It was for the fun that drew me into the ski world to begin with. Soon Ahvo bought a stonegrinder. It was like winning the lottery.
Early/mid nineties, stonegrinding took off in the xc racing world. I ground a boatload of skis. We were the only game in town then.
There were not many of us working in the store in those days. We had to wear many hats. I was busy balancing grinding with fitting skis and boots and trying to race. Kinda hectic.
Then in 2010 Ahvo built a new store on a lot he had purchased in Lauderdale MN. Instead of a University Av office space with a ski shop shoe horned in, we had a real store with room and a parking lot. And more inventory and more employees. Having more employees freed me up to pay more attention to grinding skis.
But we had fallen behind in grinding cred. Our machine was functional but outdated. Grinding numbers suffered. Other shops had smarter machines. In 2015 our store manager agreed and twisted Ahvo’s arm into getting out his checkbook. Staying with the Wintersteiger brand, we upgraded. Finally able to compete. Then a little while later we took a moonshot and added a CNC driven stonegrinder – another Wintersteiger machine, the Race NC. We are finally to scale with 2 state of the art grinding machines. Its 2020 and 3 of us take over the grinding biz under the Finnsisu roof calling it Tonttuwerks. Tonttuwerks/Finnsis grinding numbers grow big again.
Good story so far.
Winter 2021, a couple guys from the ski shop came to the house with a question for my banker wife. “How to buy Finnsisu?” At that time it was no secret Ahvo was entertaining the idea of moving on. He preferred keeping a sale in-house. She sat them down in our living room and gave a crash course on Business Buying 101. A couple hours later, they stumbled back out into the night, their heads swimming. But in a good way.
For two and a half years, the exploration of a Finnsisu purchase evolved. Working through an assortment of speed bumps, an outline for that purchase took form. The banker wife made sure a path was defined and followed. Financial backers came and went, skillset needs were researched and eventually a group coalesced. The nuts and bolts of purchasing the business got hammered out. A lot of back and forth legalese and bank detail minutiae got done. By the end of July 2023 the business was sold to Nate Karen and Tom.
Finnsisu Two begins.