Many who live in the county and work or play outdoors will be glad to know that Grass Valley has recently welcomed BareBones Workwear, a shop intended to provide sturdy, functional attire while concentrating on customer service. The store is at 736 Taylorville Rd, Ste. A in Grass Valley.
The store’s mission statement declares it is “Your complete solution for safety products, uniforms, footwear, embroidery, and screen printing.”
Stu Nelson, the founder of BareBones, said his chain of eight stores are celebrating their 25th year in business this month and he is excited to bring this type of business to Nevada County.
“It started in my garage,” Nelson said. “The first location was a warehouse in Natomas.
“I was previously a chef, and I was in the restaurant business and I was burnt out and I met a laundry manager at the Red Lion hotel. He was telling me about recycled stuff and textiles in the laundry industry, and I said ‘I have to do something completely different.’ So we started recycling coveralls from the rental companies, and (making) rags. So we started taking them to auto parts places.”
And thus was born the Bag o’ Rags, officially Nelson’s first product to hit the market.
“So we did that and it turned into a pretty big business,” Nelson said. “In our heyday we were doing about 35 tons a month of diverting from the dumps. And because of the coveralls, we just said, ‘let’s do a retail store and kind of do it in the warehouse.’ It started off as it was going to the Home Depot of workwear and we said, ‘we’re going to keep it really simple.’”
This marked the opening of BareBones’ first store in Natomas, near Sacramento.
Nelson was mid-conversation with a friend when he was asked the nature of his business. He replied that it would be a “bare bones operation.” The word and name stuck with him.
He started getting in items from companies like Carhartt before realizing that many men, generally speaking, aren’t that into shopping.
“We wanted to make it very simple,” he said. “I don’t even know if we had a fitting room at that time. We wanted to make it real practical, real functional.”
Then one day Nelson heard some people talking in his store who said they liked shopping there. That, he said, was never the concept.
“So then it was like let’s make it into a guy’s store. And then we added more and more stuff, and we became focused on what customers want, and looking at their global needs.”
One feature of BareBones Workwear of which Nelson is most proud is the Aetrex machine, a highly technological measuring device to find one’s perfect shoe size and type.
“It takes 3D measurements, and the colors are a heat map,” he explained. “So in addition to measuring the foot it’s showing where the pressures are. The days of measuring someone’s foot is over. And then it makes it a lot easier for us and for other people and we can actually fit people better not just in insoles but in the type of boot they should wear. It’s more of a customer service approach.”
Nelson is equally as proud of what he calls “the boot wall,” which features boots from companies ranging from White’s to Keen, Danner’s to Timberland.
“I am really proud of this because if you go into almost any other store you’re going to see boots organized by brand but for us it’s organized by the customer’s purpose. If he’s a logger, he’s going to want a boot that’s a logger. They’re categorized,” Nelson said.
“We are proud of this concept,” he continued, “because it epitomizes the notion that we are customer-centric. There are certain quality brands but we are not about the brand we are about the customer.”
Additionally, BareBones is one of only four companies in the state to be licensed by CalFire to reproduce their logo, and that they do on everything from shirts to windshield shades.
For apparel, the store offers brands like Dickies, Ben Davis, and Carhartt as well as the neon shirts and jackets required as a safety measure for so many outdoor jobs.
Until their opening on Taylorville Road, the closest location of BareBones had been in Auburn.
“We always looked to Grass Valley so from a business point of view we are looking at demographics and even though we might look at other communities that are larger we always felt from a personal view that we’d like to be part of the community,” Nelson said. “It’s a community that’s working people and the mental approach is that people are practical. It gets a little colder here (and) people need stuff when it gets cold. And we also knew it was a pretty popular CalFire location and we just thought we were getting more and more calls from Grass Valley. It seemed like a natural fit to us.”