Wednesday, May 18, 2016

It's More Than Just Sporting Equipment...It's Bass Pro Shops!

Here's a story for you.  When I was young, I loved the outdoors. That hasn't changed.  At the time I was living in Indiana and we had to drive a long way to do any really good shopping.  There was no internet and so forth; it's just the way it was.  I got a catalog in the mail one day from Bass Pro Shops.  There were no stores in my area at the time.  I started doing some research, and I found out some fabulous things.

Johnny Morris is the founder of the chain of giant sporting goods stores that are mimicked in Tim Allen's sitcom "Last Man Standing."  He opened the first store in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri in 1981.  What I discovered when I found out about the stores was that he also had a huge rustic lodge not far from Branson, Missouri called Big Cedar Lodge.  They have all kinds of outdoors activities.  It's an amazing place, or so I hear.  I spent many seasons trying to get my then husband to go to this place for a vacation.  It never happened.  Sadly, I moved to New England and started shopping at L.L. Bean and never really thought about it again.

After all these years, a few weeks ago I was driving down I-95 in Bridgeport, CT and saw Outdoor World.  I couldn't get it out of my head.  It was the store I'd always wanted to go to.  So, I dragged my unwilling teenage boy down to Bridgeport a couple of weeks ago to finally see what it was like inside.

The place is the size of a small mall, and they have everything.  You can buy hunting, fishing, all field and court sports items.  You can buy boats, ATVs, grills, food, camping and backpacking gear, and even furniture.  It's truly amazing.

But that's not all.  You can go bowling there.  They also have a restaurant.  It's a whole experience for those of us that love the outdoors and everything that can possibly go with it.  I will warn you that if you don't like hunting and you are vegan; this place is probably not really for you.  They do have things that go with many other sports, but the decor might not be to your liking.

Personally, I couldn't get enough of the decor.  I wanted to go fishing in the aquarium.  Every trout in there looked legal.  The best part about the store was that the prices were reasonable.  With all the fancy outdoor scenes, I was expecting to find high prices.  I didn't find low prices either.  What I did find was really good prices on really good quality products.  The clothes were good too.  I even bought a pair of summer hikers.  It was great.

But, the stores are not the only story by a long shot.  Over the years, Johnny Morris not only opened Big Cedar Lodge, but Big Cypress Lodge in Memphis, TN as well.   Big Cypress has one of the largest retail spaces in the world.  The hotel has all kinds of amazing rooms; even tree houses.

But even more.  Johnny Morris is famous for his conservation and wildlife management beliefs.  Dogwood Canyon in Missouri is one of the places that he purchased and opened as a protected wildlife area.  The resorts are all dedicated to wildlife preservation.  He's spent millions on supporting these efforts.  He's a legend in Missouri.

It takes a lot of hutspa to start all of this, let alone back in the 1980's and 90's.  It was before it was truly fashionable.  He may be a hunter and fisherman, but he does not believe in destroying any species.  It's amazing that he's done all of this with the money that he's made from his chain of giant stores.

So, here's to you, Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops.  I'm so glad I finally got to go to one of these amazing stores.  I only hope that I get to go to one of the resorts one day.  For an enthusiast like me, I can't get enough of the atmosphere, the local maps and the rustic bathrooms.  If you don't have time to head out to a trip any time soon, stop by the amazing Bass Pro Shops and get some gear so at least you can enjoy the outdoors around you.  Enjoy!

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