Carrie Rengers

Combined Camping World and Gander Mountain store to open in Wichita

Could RVs soon fill the vacant ground north of Gander Mountain at WaterWalk? They might if Camping World chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis has his way.
Could RVs soon fill the vacant ground north of Gander Mountain at WaterWalk? They might if Camping World chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis has his way. The Wichita Eagle

The fate of the Gander Mountain store at WaterWalk may be up in the air, but the chain’s fate in Wichita isn’t.

“We’ll come to Wichita one way or the other,” says Marcus Lemonis, the chairman and CEO of Camping World who purchased Gander Mountain out of bankruptcy.

Lemonis, star of CNBC’sThe Profit,” says he’s been looking for Wichita sites for a Camping World RV store for a year.

“I love the market,” Lemonis says. “We’ve been looking at land all over the place.”

He’s interested in keeping Gander Mountain at the WaterWalk development along the Arkansas River, but only if he can use empty land there to showcase Camping World’s RVs and only if he can negotiate a cheaper lease.

Lemonis says Gander Mountain has been paying landlord Jack DeBoer $489,000 a year.

“My expectations would be that it would be at least a 25 percent reduction,” Lemonis says.

DeBoer says they’ve exchanged voicemails but haven’t spoken yet.

Lemonis says if he can get the rent reduction and have a place for his RVs, he could open a combined Gander Mountain and Camping World by fall.

“If that spot doesn’t work, we’ll go someplace else.”

Lemonis says he likes I-135 and, in particular, I-235.

“I like the 235 swingaround.”

Lemonis says he’ll need a 65,000-square-foot building including service bays for the two stores, and it likely would take about 15 months to happen.

“Camping World and Gander Mountain would both be on the sign because they’re two different retail experiences.”

Lemonis says it’s like Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins sometimes operating in the same space. He says he sees Gander Mountain and Camping World playing off each other nicely.

“Because we own them both, it makes good business sense.”

Gander Mountain hasn’t been doing well in Wichita, Lemonis says. He says the chain had operating revenue of about $7.1 million in the last year and a profit of $236,000.

“I know if I put a Camping World in there, and I get the product right, which I know we can do, it’ll do a lot better.”

Lemonis bought all of Gander Mountain’s assets except for its inventory. Liquidators purchased the inventory and are operating the Wichita store until the merchandise is sold.

Though Lemonis is interested in the WaterWalk site, he says he’ll respect DeBoer’s decision if negotiations don’t work out.

“There’s no power struggle here.”

DeBoer may not have spoken with Lemonis yet, but he knows of him and how he’s negotiating for new leases on Gander Mountain stores throughout the country.

“And he’s doing all this personally,” DeBoer says. “I mean, that’s pretty impressive.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

  Comments