New St. Louis-area retailers brace for outdoor boom | local work

St. Lewis – The area is experiencing a renaissance in outdoor retail.

Over the past year, three local stores have opened within eight miles of each other, stocking camping gear, climbing stands, and kayaks for your St. Louis adventure. A new series port has arrived. Now two existing franchises are adding second sites.

The St. Louis area has become its own place as a center for outdoor recreation, said Brad Kovac, editor of St. Louis-based Terrain Magazine. There is still room for growth.

“The competition will generate more interest,” Kovac said. “Instead of breaking the pie into smaller pieces, they will make a larger pie.”

The editorial rush reflects a local industry scrambling to keep pace with growing interest and growing opportunities. Over the past few years, trails have been extended and bike parks created. Specialized activities became prevalent. At the same time, the pandemic began pushing hectic household objects from sofas into kayaks, hiking boots or snowboards.

People also read…

  • Cardinals downgrade DeJong to Class AAA Memphis, paving the way for Sosa’s return
  • Yeah, yeah, Yepez: Rookie delivers double that tie in the ninth round, slingshot the Cardinals for a 3-2 win
  • Hochman: Dear NHL – Change the match format back to the traditional 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5 format
  • AT&T Tower in St. Louis sells for $4.1 million, a fraction of its previous sales
  • St. Louis Alderman John Collins Muhammad Resigns
  • IKEA loses bid to cut St. Louis taxes
  • O’Neill loses arbitration case with the Cardinals; Walsh Up, Waitley Down
  • Alabama prison official who helped inmate escape dies after shooting herself
  • ‘Not good for St. Louis’: Air Force proposes cutting F-15EX line for Boeing St. Louis
  • Hummel: Juan Ebiz will be here for a while
  • Controversial radio host Bob Romanic dies at 72
  • Four dead and three children in critical condition after a plane crash on Delmar Avenue in St. Louis
  • Tarasenko hat-trick cheers for the Blues as they beat Wilde 5-2
  • Editorial: Alito’s verdict is so self-contradictory that it calls into question the court’s verdict
  • Wanted in Glendale: Buyers to keep 214 year old home

And retailers felt that enthusiasts — both first-timers and those revisiting old ones — needed equipment. In November, Arkansas-based Gearhead Outfitters landed at Plaza Frontenac. REI is hitting Town and Country by summer, and Sunset Hills will be home to the Bass Pro Shop before the end of the year.

But the three independent operations, which welcomed clients within weeks of each other in October, have taken up space here even among the major players. They count on experienced staff, curated shelves, and a friendly atmosphere to give them a foothold in the booming market.

“Outdoors can be both secluded and secluded,” said Ian Vandam, owner of Field Theory on Big Bend Boulevard in Webster Groves. “We’re really making it accessible.”

He has already developed a client base through the lifestyle store he co-owns with his mother, Civil Alchemy. When a spot became available across the street, VanDam decided to expand—with a purpose.

Field theory allows him to indulge his fondness for “non-utilitarian” equipment that is also “a little bit more playful”. The shop sells everything from geodesic tents and organic toothpaste to Ansel Adams photography books. The Burmese Vandam’s mountain dog, the Rafa, is considered the official homily.

Anna Sweely of St. Louis County brought her 3-year-old son Alfie to Field Theory last Thursday. After getting to know Rafa, they checked their backpacks and headgear.

Swelly gained a taste for “hiking” while living in Colorado, but he believes Missouri has more to offer than many Natives realize.

“We do a lot of Castlewood work. It’s in our backyard,” said Swelly, who has two other sons. “We just have to be outdoors.”

Missouri’s 92 state parks saw record attendance last year. Castlewood in Ballwin is known for its trails suitable for mountain biking.

Elephant Rocks, in Iron County, offers opportunities close to the rocks, said Hannah Chancellor, marketing director for So iLL rock climbing.

The chancellor’s husband, Dan, and brother, Dave, started the company in 2006 from their barn in southern Illinois and, a few years later, designed their first climbing gym.

Since then, the prestige of the sport has been strengthened: in 2020, climbing made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics. More climbing gyms were built in the United States in 2021 than in any previous year, according to Climbing Business Journal, an industry publication.

For months, 13 iLL employees have worked to transform their hilltop Marconi Street offices into a climbing gallery, “a small museum of So iLL,” the consultant said, complete with seat belts and protective bags, chalk bags and shock pads. A spectrum of climbing bubbles up from the walls of the white clipboard.

“When you do something like climbing, it’s important to be able to touch and feel it and ask someone questions,” she said.

Fitting shoes is almost an exercise in itself. It can take up to an hour to try the shoe being rolled up, checking for tension, stiffness, and grip.

“It’s kind of a process,” the chancellor said. “We can direct people.”

Being able to experiment with equipping and speaking through options facilitates what can be a daunting experience for clients new to the sport.

St. Louis’s Joe December has wanted his own boat since he dunked his toes into the water on a trip with Big Muddy Adventures. When he received an unexpected bonus at work this winter, he decided it was time to buy.

December examined the simplified selection at Big Muddyy’s Guide Shop on Washington Boulevard in the central West End and saw a 16-foot canary yellow. He passed his hand from bow to stern, grabbed the hull and decided he could raise it over his car himself, a non-negotiable trait.

Took her home that day.

“It’s incredibly light,” December said. “It handles beautifully.”

Big Muddy has hosted river excursions, such as “full moon floats” and night camping, since 2016. But a converted auto repair shop, with a bar inside and a fire pit aft, allows the company to connect with its customers on dry land.

“We’ve always wanted to have some kind of outpost,” said owner Roe Yawitz. “We are trying to be an urban hub for the outdoor lifestyle.”

Customers can book excursions in the store, as well as shop for life jackets, cast iron cookware or books about birds. Big Muddy carries a collection of locally made graphic T-shirts, Ope Outdoors, that celebrates day trips like Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Hawn State Park.

“We don’t sell skates,” Yawitz said. “We are very focused on the Midwest. People are doing really great things here.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: