By Shari Valente
Originally a fire station, the Pilot Shop is located at Centennial Airport, north of the Denver jetCenter. With a fabulous view of airplanes taking off the runway, it’s decorated with old airborne division signs–-a lot that don’t exist anymore–and a Beechcraft sign that was going to be thrown away from one of the hangars at Centennial.
There’s a rare print of a Jeppesen poster that many customers want to buy but the owner keeps it for its design. A couple of flags are displayed on the wall; one is a Norwegian flag that is a symbol of the owner’s heritage.
Rod Waage took ownership of the store a year ago. Two different entrepreneurs previously owned it. Unlike the previous owners, Waage says he tries to focus his stock not on toys but on actual pilot supplies.
“I started adding things that a pilot or an aircraft owner would want on a regular basis,” said Waage. “Things such as a larger and more diverse selection of headsets and hand-held radios, like this new item we just got today–a cell phone adapter for a headset. We also have oil, so pilots can buy a quart for their airplane, and some different polishes, too. I increased the inventory by about 25 percent.”
The store keeps more items on hand, such as flight bags and training materials, because of its ample space. They have other things besides pilot supplies, such as T-shirts and general interest books on flying. If you can’t find something on the shelf, ask the owner and he’ll more than likely start stocking it.
“Customer service is a big deal for us,” said Waage. “Part of that is greeting everyone who comes in. We also special order items for people who want something we don’t normally carry.”
Waage began his career as an electrical engineer. However, he’s no stranger to sales or customer service; the business owner has nearly 30 year’s experience in marketing high-tech products. At his last job, he worked for two years as vice president of sales for INCASES North America, Inc., a German software company. He was district sales manager for Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. and at Sun Microsystems, Inc. At one point, he was also director of sales for a startup company called Fujitsu.
“Actually I’m an electrical engineer,” he said. “Back when I first started in the business, they wanted technical people to sell the computers. Today, they’re looking for someone with more of a sales manager background.”
Despite the excitement of the ever-changing world of megabytes, Waage’s true passion is for flying.
“I decided to get out of high tech when the dot.com bust came along and Incases was sold off in pieces,” he said. “I thought, ‘Let’s do something that’s fun.’ I love aviation; my dad was a fighter pilot for 30 years. He was in WWII and the Korean War. He spent 30 years flying jets. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot, but I had to start wearing glasses by the time I was in high school. Like most pilots, I wanted to get a job in aviation, so I was lucky enough to buy this store.”
Waage has flown off and on for the last 30 years. He co-owns a 1982 Turbo Arrow IV that’s hangared at Centennial.
“I fly whenever I can, mostly across country,” said Waage enthusiastically. “Two years ago I did a lot of flying because I received my commercial and my CFI. With the store, I haven’t flown quite as much this year, although I did have a chance to take a flight to California and I flew to New Mexico a couple weekends ago for the balloon festival.”
If you enjoy flying as much as Waage, stop by the Pilot Shop for a unique T-shirt or everyday pilot supplies.
The Pilot Shop is located at 7601 S. Peoria St. For more information, call 800-615-2478 or 303-706-9000, or visit [http://www.aipilotshop.com].