Business Owner: Darren Knezek
Location: Provo, Utah
Darren Knezek, the spikey haired, passionate climber that runs “Mountainworks, A Store For Climbers”. If you have a question regarding anything climbing, he is sure to have the answer. Being a climber for 25 years will do that, and on top of that, he’s a major pioneer of the still growing sport. He has more real life climbing experience than you could imagine. “We were all really famous in the area for starting whole new canyons for climbing,” says Darren, “…like Maple Canyon. I wrote the guide book after we found it and developed all the routes. Then, in Rock Canyon I’ve put up more routes than anybody in history, over 250 routes there, over 100 routes in American Fork Canyon, and over 150 routes in the desert.”
Darren has been a huge influence to many in the climbing world. As soon as you meet him you can tell that climbing means the world to him.
Ask Darren about his store and this is what he would tell you.
“I like to describe the store as the best climbing shop in America. I try to do everything with climbing, rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. I wanted you to come in here, and be like, ‘Wow! I’ve never seen a shop like this, this shop has every single cam, every single rope; if there’s anything you want to do with climbing, you know books, ropes, whatever, THIS is the place to go.“And at that Darren has succeeded. Throughout the country and among the some of the worlds best climbers, Mountainworks is often known as the best climbing shop they’ve ever seen. “I’ve heard that from really famous people, such as John Bachar, one of the America’s most talented climbers. He came in here and said, “Oh my gosh, this is the best climbing shop I’ve ever seen, this is better than the Yosemite shop!”
Yosemite is known to be the world’s mecca for climbing, so you could say Darren has accomplished his dream, and to think it was all unplanned.
“I broke my ankle in the spring of 94 and in that spring my friend Jeff Pedersen was the owner, and he was only open 4 days a week. He was going to Yosemite for two weeks. We would always go every year together for two weeks, but I wasn’t going with a broken ankle. Jeff asked me if I would go ahead and watch the shop while he climbed in Yosemite. So I worked the shop for 2 weeks by the time he got back, the sales were so good. Our psyche was high!”
“At this point he asked me to work for him. So I did. I worked for FREE for almost four years. I was the manager of the gym at the time, and that’s how I made my money. So, I’d work two to three days at the shop and then a couple of days at the gym. A few years later Jeff was like, ‘Hey man, you own half.”
In 2003 or 2004, Jennifer had this idea to start a climbing club, because everyone would come into Mountainworks and be like ‘Hey Darren, show me how to bolt a route.’There’s no way I could possibly do that with everybody, or people would say, ‘Show me how to put in nuts, or show me how to place cams’ and I don’t have time to teach everyone. It’s impossible. People don’t understand, I’d be lucky to bolt even half a route while teaching them, where as if I’m by myself I can bolt 5 or 6 routes in a day. It’s the same thing, if I’m teaching someone to place cams, I don’t really climb that whole day. So Jennifer said, “Hey, we should start a club and you can show a bunch of people at once and then, hopefully they show people who in turn will show other people.”
“This club has been around 11 years now and every year it has at least 25 new people and the 25 old people continue to climb. Almost everyone that’s ever been in the club still climbs and they show more people and they show more people. You don’t know how to ice climb? Well, you’ll learn how to ice climb. You don’t know how to place nuts? Well, you’ll learn how to do that. So, I’ve got to show all the stuff that I know how to do, to other people. Now I go in the gym next door and I bet almost every other person has been in the club sometime in the last 11 years, and I get to say, ‘Oh wow, I showed that person how to place his first cam, now he’s on sighting 12 c’s and d’s (Climbing Grades) on trad gear.’ And there’s a ton like that, that are super talented climbers that you would never know all started climbing in the club. So my big thing now, is to look back and say, “those are all people that are doing things they never would’ve done.”
“So, to me that’s my favorite part of the whole experience, not even the shop so much, but people come into the shop and they buy something, maybe they join the Utah Climbing Club and I get to meet all new people that year and do over two dozen climbing events with them.”
“I’d say really make sure you like what your doing. You know everybody’s heard that saying, “if you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life.” So, if you love it then it doesn’t really feel like your working. When I come to work it doesn’t really feel like I’m working, hardly ever.”
“Anybody can tell you, ‘If you do this job or that job you are going to make all kinds of money.’ But, there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen. So, make sure you really like what you’re doing and you really dig it, because it’s going to be quite stressful at times. The best thing about owning your own business is doing what you love and not having anyone tell you what to do.”