Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Field and Stream: Cabela’s comes to town

Years ago, I worked for a hosting company, and one of our clients was Cabela’s, the hunting and fishing outfitters.

Up to that point, I had never heard of them, but they were a great client and I enjoyed working with them on a couple of things – a customer story, a holiday campaign in which we encouraged employee to do some of their shopping with our consumer products customers…

I know that I bought something from them, but I can’t imagine what it might have been. The women’s clothing may have spiffed up a bit since then, but at the time it was pretty clunky, even by my standards. It made L.L. Bean duds look cutting edge enough to show up on a Fashion Week runway.

And it’s not as if my husband was in the market for any camo gear, duck calls, or semi-automatic handguns. (Even just looking at the guns, which I did just now on their website, gives me the creeps.)

But the news around here is that a Cabela’s store has just opened.

Sure, it’s out in the wilds of Central Massachusetts – in Berlin.

But it’s still a surprise that they’d open anything in Massachusetts.

Of course, that’s what I said when the Bass Pro Shop – very similar to Cabela’s – opened in Massachusetts, at Patriot Place, the shopping and eating “destination” that’s part of the Gillette Stadium complex where the New England Patriots play.

Neither Cabela’s nor Bass Pro seems like an especially Massachusetts place to shop.

Oh, we do like the rugged gear look and feel.

But we’re in our duck boots as a fashion statement when we go out to walk the yellow lab.

And those barn jackets? We’re wearing them to Whole Foods to pick up Non-GMO green beans and veal from calves raised in loving homes.

What me hunt? What me fish?

Okay. Some people I know fish.

But, since my husband’s Uncle Bill died about 15 years ago, I don’t think I’ve spoken to a soul who hunts.

Oddly enough, my Uncle Bob and Uncle Jack (my mother’s brothers) – Chicago city boys, born and bred – were both hunters, and fishermen.

But my father? Hah!

The thought of him staring down the barrel at a buck makes me laugh out loud. As does envisioning him wrestling a marlin onto the deck of a cabin cruiser.

My father was an active guy. He played poker. He drank beer. He was a superb natural athlete who excelled in any sport he took up. One of my great pleasures as a child was watching my father ice skate. He’d take us to Elm Park, strap on our double-runners, and patiently help us shuffle around the ice for a while. But then he’d take off on his own, skating fast and fluid. Skating backwards – something that I never mastered. He was graceful and lovely to watch. Other people watched him to, making his little ones mighty proud.

But hunting and fishing?


Dad golfed.

Thinking of my husband hunting and fishing produces even more by way of outright, prolonged laughter.

As a kid, Jim had done track and played basketball. In his twenties he’d taken up tae-kwon-do. But even though he grew up in the mountains of Vermont, and as much as he adored his Uncle Bill, the thought of him sitting in a duck blind waiting for Daffy to fly over head, or behind a tree waiting for Bambi’s mother to show up….

Hah. I say hah, hah.

He couldn’t have kept his mouth shut long enough.

My brothers? My brothers-in-law? My cousins? My male friends? My colleagues?

Fishing maybe, but hunting?

Har, har, hardee har har.

Okay. Maybe there’s Jim’s cousin Steve, Bill’s son.

I know that he used to hunt, but I bet he hasn’t shouldered a rifle in decades. (I’m seeing his daughter in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to ask her.)

And us women folk?

Why, the idea is even more preposterous.

So if I extrapolate from all the Massachusetts residents I know, I can’t can’t come up with enough prospective shoppers to keep the doors of Cabela’s open. Then again, I wouldn’t have bet on NASCAR holding races in New Hampshire, either. (Okay, maybe in New Hampshire.)

Of course, I do live and work in my own little enclave of LL Bean and REI-wearing folks who spend time in nature – hiking and the like – rather than arming up and going after nature.

But here we are.

When the store opened last weekend, there were folks camped out in the parking lot waiting for the store to open. Thousands of them.

And they were in for a treat.

A full-fledged celebration featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony with a unique touch . Patrick Murray, a store manager who won a competition for the honor, took a seat about 10 feet in the air, bow in hand. With a steady hand, and to the equally steady blare of classic rock music, he fired an arrow straight into a clay pigeon. (Source: Boston Globe.)

(Wondering if they were playing “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent?)

“We’re used to big crowds at our openings,’’ said company official John Castillo, “but even this one exceeded our expectations.’’

Cabela’s takes off in Massachusetts?

Who knew?

Anyway, I do remember them fondly as a customer, and I hope they do well here. (As long as they don’t end up selling handguns to punks, that is…)

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