It feels like the end of an era with Gander Mountain closing.
I'm all for small business. I'm also all for the outdoors. Bass Pro, Cabela's, and Gander Mountain have been mainstays for a long time in the US. All three seem to have their followers, and most of the time, those groups don't like to shop at each other's stores. Well, it seems like corporate America has solved this problem for us.
Very soon, and if not already in some states, we have Gander Mountain closing. On top of that, we have Bass Pro buying Cabela's. There are some small regional stores left, and a new Gander is going open in the fall, but I say forget all of it. It's time to support the small outdoor businesses all over the US and make the big box stores compete with the little guy.
With the help of the Internet, small hunting and fishing businesses have access to the consumer world just like the big guys. Through social media, some accounts are just as big as the big boys too. However, there are a few great differences between supporting a small business and supporting a corporate store. For example, often times you will encounter superior customer service. To a big box store, you are just a metric. To a small business, you are their livelihood.
On top of this, the big box stores are concerned with profits and margins more so than anything else. You can tell this by most of the products these days being in-house private labels vs outsider brands. There is nothing wrong with this, but those private labels are most likely coming from overseas at a fraction of the cost and reliability as you might find from something made in the states. Guess where most small outdoor hunting and fishing businesses make their products? Yep. Probably in their garage, or a small shop they pay rent to keep.
Let's say you have a problem with a product you purchased at a retail shop. Who are you going to call? Who do you think you will actually talk with about it? Will it get resolved? If you call the number to a small business in the outdoors, odds are high you will talk to the owner, founder, and creator of the product you are calling about. Odds are even higher they will do everything they can to make it right as well.
The next time you are looking for some hunting or fishing product, do yourself a favor and search a few pages back in Google before you go to the big box store. That's where you will find the small business that makes a US-made fly rod, grunt call, turkey call, boots, jig heads, or even gun parts. It's all there, you just have to look for it.
Everyone will be better off if you do.