Sophia Brownlee, Class of 2024, is a natural resources major (ecological restoration option) in the College of Forestry, and this summer she worked for Chaco on their Fit For Adventure tour. This tour travels around the country offering on site repairs to keep their sandals on feet (and out of landfills) longer.
Describe the day-to-day of your summer job.
Our activation typically runs 12:00pm to 6:00pm which allows us a leisurely morning. I’ll either bike to work or catch a ride with the rest of the crew in one of our vans. Once we arrive at our activation, where the Chaco bus is staged, we begin to unload all of our equipment and set up the activation space. This includes a large table for checkout, a display table with the try-on Chacos and Chillos, and a design table featuring webbing options for folks’ custom sandals. Once activation begins I’ll either work on the ground getting people fitted in their Chacos, diagnosing Chaco repairs, completing transactions, and sharing stories and fond memories involving Chaco footwear. Otherwise, I work on the bus making and repairing the sandals themselves!
What’s one memory that stands out from your experience working this summer?
One thing that’s really stuck with me from working this summer is how excited people are to repair their Chacos. We offer free repairs to customers to promote sustainability and longevity of the shoes. I’ve worked with a few customers who were overwhelmed with joy that we were in their city and could repair their sandals, saving them from the landfill. They share stories of how important their Chacos are to them; how many states, rivers, trails, and countries their shoes have traversed. We get people who are so emotionally attached to their Chacos, they have a hard time saying goodbye! It brings us a lot of joy to salvage such a sentimental thing.
What was your favorite place you traveled for this job?
Bozeman, Montana. Without a doubt. The people there were just lovely, and they were incredibly stoked to have us visit. On the bus, we have a capacity of 45 custom sandals/repairs, any additional orders we send to our factory in Michigan. On one of the days in Bozeman, we hit our capacity just an hour after opening! Bozeman has a great community of outdoor adventurers, and we felt right at home. The scenery was also spectacular, and we even got to witness an epic thunderstorm while rafting on the Gallatin river! I can’t wait to visit again, hopefully for a ski trip.
How will your job this summer help you in your classes or future career?
This job opened my mind to the world of marketing and promotion, something I hadn’t been exposed to. It also piqued my interest in product development and design, which I’m considering adding to my curriculum at Oregon State. Besides the job itself, traveling and experiencing new cities has given me an appreciation for what we have in Oregon that may seem so commonplace, but does not exist, or is less accepted in other places. For example, bike lanes, quality tap water, a $13.50 minimum wage, and government-funded programs to help students access quality, local food are not available in most of the places we’ve traveled.
Describe your perfect pair of Chacos.
This is a tough one! My favorite style of Chacos is the classic Z/1. I haven’t owned a pair of Chacos with the toe-strap (a Z/2), but I’d be willing to try ‘em out. The perfect pair of Chacos starts with a perfect fit, which is contingent upon the size, of course, and how the straps are adjusted. As for the design, it would be paralyzing to try to pick out even a handful of webbing options I’d consider my favorite, however, off the top of my head, the NRS, National Parks, and Grateful Dead collections are super rad.
What I did this summer is a profile series of students, faculty and staff in the College of Forestry. Did you have a great job, vacation, or field research experience? Contact CoFThisWeek@oregonstate.edu and we will be in touch!