Over 35 years ago, Jan Peterson started something special. It wasn’t just that he opened the first Jans store near the corner of Park Avenue and Deer Valley Drive. Or, that over the next three decades he gave back generously to the community. Rather, Jan created a place that embodied what locals and tourists love about Park City – an unbridled passion for the incredibly accessible mountains and the multitude of sports that are enjoyed here. Jan Peterson will not soon be forgotten. His passing reminds us how he touched all of our lives by giving us a place to share our love of outdoor recreation.
Despite the fact that Jan hadn’t been active in the day-to-day business for some time, he was still highly respected and beloved by the Jans team. His employees were steadfastly loyal, and many worked for Jans for 20 or 30 years. In that time, what started as a single ski shop evolved from one location to more than a dozen different stores in Utah plus one in Colorado.
Jans first branched out into fly fishing because, as an avid angler himself, Jan wanted access to the newest and best equipment. One reason for the success was the fact that Jan Peterson knew the retail business since his father owned a ski shop in Salt Lake City. The store was named Pete’s, after his dad’s nickname, so when the time came to open his own ski shop, it wasn’t too hard for Jan to pick a name.
Jan also knew the sport of skiing. Raised in a family where skiing was king, he and his brothers would spend an entire day at Alta, armed with a five-dollar bill from his father that would pay for ski passes and lunch for all three boys. Jan started out as a junior ski racer, then raced for the University of Utah and was a certified ski instructor before becoming a ski coach himself and earning his nickname, “Coach.” Over time, he became a fixture within the race community to the point that Jan was nominated to the Park City Ski Team Hall of Fame a few years ago, an honor which meant the world to him.
What made the Jans stores stand out, in a town filled to the brim with outdoor retailers, was that the employees were experts in their respective sports – skiing and fly fishing certainly, but also biking and hiking. That, coupled with the way that Jan himself instructed the staff to treat customers, “as if they were walking into your living room,” was and still is what makes the stores unique.
When jans.com was launched as the 14th store, Jan himself offered to write blogs for the website. Over a period of about 18 months, Jan wrote a total of 25 blogs, the majority of which espoused the virtues of fly fishing which the former ski coach considered his “religion.”
Even more important than the stores that bear his name, Jan fostered an attitude of contributing to the local community. What started as a way to fund the cost-intensive sport of skiing for Park City kids, evolved into an annual fundraiser known as the Jans Winter Welcome. Now in its 36th year, the event contributes about $400,000 a year to support the Youth Sports Alliance, a non-profit that gives kids exposure to 13 different winter sports. He also was instrumental in the founding of the National Ability Center which helps people of all abilities build confidence and life skills through adaptive sports and recreation. Two major community causes and a business that provides jobs for a couple hundred people. That’s quite a legacy to leave behind.
Thanks, Coach, for teaching us the value of giving back and for creating a place that lets us embrace our passion for the sports we love. We promise to protect it, to continue its growth and to make you proud. We’ve got this, but we sure will miss you.