Cabela’s store in Rogers raring to open

ROGERS — Cabela’s Inc. of Sidney, Neb., which bills itself as the world’s foremost outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, last week offered a glimpse inside its new store in Rogers.
There was much to see, to the extent that the local chamber of commerce believes the store will become a tourist attraction in its own right.

An indoor archery range where shoppers can check out a bow before they buy.

A gun library that includes antique firearms, some as old as 100 years, ranging in price from $200 to “thousands,” according to Wes Remmer, a Cabela’s spokesman who was guiding reporters through the new store, which is to open Aug. 30.

The “mountain,” one of the most popular places in the store, is where replicas of animals are displayed in a steep, rocky setting.
Hunting is the biggest chunk of the retailer’s business, Remmer said, followed by fishing, but that varies from market to market.
Dick and Mary Cabela founded the business in 1961 as a catalog operation in Chappel, Neb., selling hand tied flies for $1 per dozen. The Rogers outlet will open as the company’s 39th store, and the company now has stores from Maine to Arizona and Washington state.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Remmer said of the 100,000-square-foot Rogers store. “There are thousands of hunters and fishermen … in Northwest Arkansas.”

Cabela’s is a major competitor to Bass Pro Shops, which has 58 U.S. stores. The Springfield, Mo., company, started by Johnny Morris about 40 years ago, has announced plans to open its first Arkansas store by late next year. About 250 people will be hired at a 120,000-square-foot store adjacent to Gateway Town Center in southwest Little Rock, near Interstates 430 and 30.
Also, Bass Pro will open a store in the Memphis Pyramid that stands near the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River. Once the home of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team, the vast building will house a 220,000-square-foot store, about the size of one of Wal-Mart’s larger supercenters. But that won’t come close to the one in the home base of Springfield, where the Bass Pro complex covers about 450,000 square feet.

Larry Whitely, a spokesman for Bass Pro, said the Bass Pro in the Pyramid will open next year, but the date has not yet been determined.

Bass Pro, which already has a store on Macon Road in Memphis, has a strong presence in the Southeast, the one region of the country where Cabela’s is largely absent.

Cabela’s has stores in Buda, Fort Worth and Allen, Texas, and in Gonzales, La., between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The company opened a store in Wichita, Kan., on March 14. It has one Missouri store in Hazelwood, in the St. Louis region, but no stores in Mississippi or Tennessee or points to the south and east of there.

At Cabela’s new store in Rogers, people not so much into hunting and fishing can visit the home/cabin section. It also will sell furniture, plus earrings, watches, necklaces and the company’s own line of fudge – 35 flavors.

“People who come into the store can satisfy their sweet tooth,” Remmer said.

Employment at the store, including full-time, part-time and seasonal workers, is projected to be about 225, said Chris Comer, store manager.

Comer said the community’s reaction to the new store has been positive.

“The level of excitement here is just off the charts,” he said. “I’ve just been overwhelmed with the enthusiasm.”
In addition to fishing and hunting gear, the Rogers store will sell boats, including Lowe, Alumacraft, Nitro and Stratos, and will operate a full-line boat-service center.

All-terrain vehicles also will be featured.

The opening of Cabela’s has drawn enthusiasm from Northwest Arkansas promoters.

“It’s kind of like winning the World Series twice in a row,” said Raymond Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. “It will pull customers from far away and will drive other retail sales. It’s a brand that’s well-known.”

Burns said the chamber has been working with Cabela’s “from almost day one.” The retail attraction will be a good complement to the lure of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, he said.

“Certainly it will influence how we market this area for people who come here for weekends,” Burns said.

Tom Ginn, vice president for economic development at the Bentonville-Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce, said he has visited the Cabela’s in Kansas City, Kan., and was impressed. He expects the store to draw shoppers from a 100-mile radius.
“These kinds of things help this region function. It’s like a tourism dollar. It’s a real coup to have that store in the region,” he said.
In July, Cabela’s announced plans to build a 43,000-square-foot Cabela’s Outpost store in Saginaw, Mich., to open next spring. It will be the company’s second small-format store.
It also has plans for a full size store to open next spring in Anchorage, Alaska.

Jon Hodaway, who runs Nighthawk Custom Training Academy in Centerton, said Cabela’s presence could be bad news for small gun stores in the region, such as Ozark Sportsman Supply in Tontitown, Ozark Armory in Springdale and GI Guns & Ammo in Rogers.

“They’re going to suck the water out of the pond around here,” he said.

Business, Pages 61 on 08/19/2012

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