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  • by Karen Cummings

International Mountain Equipment

Now in its 10th year, International Mountain Equipment on Main Street in North Conway has changed in some ways and remained the same in others. It still sells high-tech, state-of-the-art outdoor equipment.

"It goes without saying that climbing gear has to be uncompromising in performance and function," said Bill Kane (center in photo), vice president and general manager of I.M.E., "but this also holds true for all our merchandise--ski gear, camping, day hiking, backpacking, and trekking equipment, in addition to our sports clothing."


Since its beginnings, the store has chosen to specialize, dealing in outdoor equipment chosen first for how well it serves its function and, secondly, for its durability and performance. The nature of the items carried in the store has varied little over the past 10 years--"We offer the best quality and value," said Kane--the depth of selection, however, has increased considerably. "We specialize in the equipment needed to go off the beaten track," he added. "People can be outfitted here for a day hike, or for a month-long trip to Mt. Everest."


Merchandise offered in the store and in the I.M.E. catalog includes a wide range of outdoor clothing made of the newest, most practical, and most effective materials--Gore-Tex, polypropylene, and polarpile. Brand names include Patagonia, Wild Things, North Face, Marmot, Wilderness Experience, and I.M.E.'s own designs. All the equipment needed for hiking and climbing is available: boots, backpacks, webbing, harnesses, climbing hardware, ice tools, sleeping bags, and tents. "For the last three years we have been the only company in the United States to offer ski mountaineering equipment in a catalog," said Kane. The store carries all the equipment needed for telemarking, a sport gaining in popularity.


Ownership has changed since the store's founding in 1974. Rick Wilcox (left), president and chief stockholder, purchased the operation from the three founders, Paul Ross, Frank Simon, and Bill Aughton, in 1979. I.M.E. has grown from its beginnings as a quality sports retail store to include a rapidly expanding mail order division, and another division headed by Wilcox which offers guided climbing, mountaineering, and trekking trips to challenging and exciting peaks all over the world.


Now that I.M.E. encompasses so many facets of the sports business, the personnel has expanded to reflect that. David Stone (second from left) is director of mail order. Alison Arthur is wholesale manager, and Bill Supple (right) is store manager. The store is the headquarters for and maintains a close relationship with the International Mountain Climbing School, which has been teaching rock and ice climbing, and guiding ascents in the White Mountains since 1974.


International Mountain Equipment is designed to serve both the experienced outdoorsman and the novice, whether young or old. Anyone who is interested in the outdoors and serious about value and performance from his equipment. "We don't carry only the most expensive items," explained Kane, "but we do offer the best quality. We want to keep people happy." To do that, I.M.E. guarantees everything it sells. Their catalog states: "International Mountain Equipment guarantees everything we sell will do the job it was designed to do to your satisfaction. If it fails, or you are dissatisfied with its performance, return it to us with your sales slip and explanation of the problem and we will repair it, replace it, or refund your money. No catches, no strings." This guarantee applies to all items purchased in the store or through mail order.


"About 50 percent of our clientele are beginners, but they know that what they want is quality," said Kane. "Many people are looking for advice and direction, and you can count on our staff to do that." The clerks at I.M.E. and the people handling the mail or phone orders have an extensive knowledge of the clothes and equipment offered, combined with many years' climbing or outdoor experience. Each of them has used many of the items sold in the store and can give firsthand advice on the product's performance.


Editor's Note: International Mountain Equipment is still run by Rick Wilcox and is still located on Main Street, although just a little further to the north. Here's a link to more information: https://www.ime-usa.com/ime/about-us/.

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