Field & Stream store in Millcreek opens early [Erie Times-News, Pa. :: ]
(Erie Times-News (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 11--For weeks, the arrival of the Field & Stream store in Millcreek Township has been touted in media with the teaser, "6-13-14. It begins."
As it turned out, it began three days early.
The Field & Stream store at the Millcreek Marketplace, 2075 Interchange Road across from the Millcreek Mall, unexpectedly opened Tuesday at noon due to customer demand.
"We had a lot of customers driving by and stopping at the door," said Shian-Li McGuire, director of brand marketing for Field & Stream.
"We're a retailer. It was just killing us to turn people away," she said.
"We're about customer service and we decided the right thing for the customer was to open the doors early. You only get one shot to make a good impression," she said.
Motorists saw signs on Interchange Road telling about the surprise grand opening. A large banner over the front entrance says, "Now open."
Millcreek resident John Phillips, 40, is a hunter and fisherman who visited the store Tuesday with his children, Allison, 9; Colin, 7; and Caleb, 3.
"I figured we'd beat the rush for the weekend," he said.
"You hear all about it. You want to see what it's all about," Phillips said. "It's very nice."
There will still be plenty of hype before and after the official grand opening Friday at 10 a.m.
Campers will stay Thursday night at 50 campsites outside the store, and it took just 48 hours for all the temporary campsites to be reserved. Each campsite got a free Field & Stream 5-person dome tent and the campers will get a catered cookout and take in other outdoor activities.
During grand opening weekend, customers outside the store can get tips from professional anglers at a 4,000-gallon bass tank, test their skills at an outdoor archery trailer, check out a vendor village and get free products, and try out kayaks and canoes in a 14,000-gallon paddle pool.
"We thought, what better market to do that in than Erie?" McGuire said, referring to the paddle pool.
But inside the store is where Field & Stream, a brand of the Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods chain, hopes to wow outdoor enthusiasts now and after the grand opening events.
Customers will notice a store-within-a-store concept. From the front entrance, customers will see an archery shop on the left, a tackle shop on the right, camping and paddling equipment in the rear right and a firearms shop in the rear left.
They'll also see taxidermy displays, including two 6-foot Alaskan brown bears fighting over an Alaskan mountain goat inside the entrance and a mountain display at the rear of the store with bobcat, sheep, bison and other animals, McGuire said. Also just inside the entrance of the 50,000-square-foot store are seats and a gas fireplace with a glass screen that's 7 feet 4 inches wide and 4 feet 4 inches tall.
Other features include two archery lanes -- one 10 yards, the other 20 yards -- so shoppers can try before they buy.
"We try to take a pro shop mentality and put it in a larger store," McGuire said.
Gun ammunition is a big commodity, and McGuire said the company will have enough for the grand opening weekend.
Field & Stream has hired about 130 employees knowledgeable about the outdoors, she said. "We pride ourselves in really finding outdoor enthusiasts to staff the store," McGuire said.
They include Barb Moore, an archery instructor who was hired as an archery technician. She demonstrated her skill with a $350 Diamond compound bow, hitting a foam deer target in the 20-yard archery lane.
Asked about the store's features, McGuire said the staff would top the list because employees could help people "who are just trying to get into the outdoors or are trying to rekindle that passion for the outdoors."
For Dick's, which operates more than 500 sporting goods stores, this is its third Field & Stream store, after others opened just north of Pittsburgh and near Cincinnati. Field & Stream expansion plans this year include one store each in Altoona and Washington County.
Dick's has sold outdoor gear under the Field & Stream name for years. The tradition continues under the new namesake stores. "The (Field & Stream) brand is over 140 years old. Our goal as a store was to build an experience that lives up to the expectations of that brand," McGuire said.
John Oliver, president of VisitErie, Erie County's tourism promotion agency, said the store gives Erie another marketing opportunity -- niche marketing -- to promote to potential visitors. The county already has a more-than-$1 billion annual tourism industry as visitors are drawn to shops, restaurants, Presque Isle State Park and other attractions.
The new retail concept speaks highly for how Dick's Sporting Goods views the market, Oliver said, and it provides a cluster of outdoor sports stores within a 1-mile radius. He noted other stores include Dick's, Gander Mountain and Erie Sport Store.
Potential shoppers said they are looking forward to another competitor in the market.
Mike Davzak, 55, of Erie, said he hopes to check out Field & Stream on Sunday.
"We have such a nice lake, we should see more of these dedicated stores for the sportsman," he said, after buying a fireproof safe for documents from Gander Mountain last week.
"There couldn't be enough. How many dedicated clothing stores do we have around here?" he said.
Meanwhile, the best grand opening in Dick's Sporting Goods history, in terms of sales, occurred with the Field & Stream store in Cranberry Township, Butler County, in August 2013.
The company hopes for even better things this weekend in Millcreek.
"We're a sporting goods company, so we're competitive. We always look to do better with the next store we open," McGuire said.
JOHN GUERRIERO can be reached at 870-1690 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNguerriero.
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