March 3, 2012

Michael Pearce: New Cabela’s offers more of what made it popular

The announcement that Cabela’s was coming to Wichita was a big hit with the local outdoors scene last year.

The announcement that Cabela’s was coming to Wichita was a big hit with the local outdoors scene last year.

Catalog sales have made them a top name in outdoors retailing for decades. The year-plus wait to see what we’ve got ends at the March 14 grand opening.

Much is planned for the following weekend. About a dozen top outdoors television celebrities will be on hand, including Troy and Jacob Landry of “Swamp People” and Mark and Terry Drury.

I got an idea what to expect out of the store near K-96 and Greenwich after a media tour last week.

At about 80,000 square feet, it’s less than half the size of the Kansas City store. Still, it’s as big as most area discount stores.

Much of the size difference comes from a lack of a huge trophy room, second-floor shopping or boat dealership.

Most of the 250-plus mounts are on the walls instead of taking up floor space, except for the company’s trademark mountain with about 30 types of animals.

There is no trout stream running through the store and the dining area isn’t huge. But there are enough things — such as a 4,000-gallon aquarium, the mounts, the grill that cooks things like elk and buffalo, bargain cave and a wide variety of non-hook/bullet merchandise — to make the store a family destination.

The fancy stocks and artistic engravings on many of the firearms in the store’s gun library may be appreciated by most that have no desire to pull a trigger.

But it’s what’s on the shelves and pegs that are most important. The new store seems to have as many departments as a larger Cabela’s.

Nate Sukraw, store general manager, said inventory comes from studying area catalog sales, though I’m not sure how many locals buy $200 kites. Sukraw said he’ll tailor selection to what’s most in demand.

One of the few unknowns is the strength of the staff, though Sukraw rose from a part-time job with Cabela’s to his current position in about 11 years. Sukraw said of the 1,700 who applied for jobs, about 750 were interviewed and about 200 hired. Many were hired because of their experience outdoors.

“We can teach them the rest,” Sukraw said. “That’s no problem.”

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