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Scout Jamboree affecting business on multiple levels

Kenny Kemp
Spider Weber and Christy Pack discuss their new Boy Scouts of America apparel for sale at Belk's in the Crossroads Mall in Bradley.
Kenny Kemp Todd Kelly, of Atlanta, who travels cross-country collecting and selling Boy Scout memorabilia, will host the National Jamboree trade show at Mount Hope stadium July 13-21.

BRADLEY, W.Va. -- Standing outside Spider's Cycle City, Todd Kelly and Spider Weber have a lot to talk about. They're both businessmen and former Boy Scouts, and they're both looking forward to the first National Scout Jamboree to be held in West Virginia, July 15-24.

The Jamboree will attract Scouts from across the nation to The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 10,000-acre adventure world, stretching across Fayette and Raleigh counties.

Shops and restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions are in line to benefit from the influx of Scouts and their families, but if you drill down deeper, there are even more ways that the Jamboree can affect the economy.

Take Kelly and Weber, for instance. Kelly deals in Boy Scout memorabilia. Weber has become a licensed dealer of Boy Scout merchandise.

In the back of Kelly's jam-packed SUV, which he drives cross-country collecting and selling Scout memorabilia, he finds a Boy's Life magazine featuring the 1950 Jamboree -- the only one Weber ever attended.

Inside the magazine, black-and-white pictures capture a very different Jamboree, with activities such as knot-tying and first-aid challenges and basic sports like canoeing and archery.

Meanwhile, The Summit offers the world's largest man-made outdoor climbing area, the world's second-largest outdoor skate park and the world's second-largest BMX facility, among many other world-class attractions.

"I've been to Disney World, two World Fairs and I've never seen anything that impresses me like the 10,000 acres the Boy Scouts have developed," Weber said.

The event is expected to attract about 30,000 Scouts and Venturing participants and 8,000 staff and adult leaders. Since construction of The Summit began in 2010, on-site contractors have employed 952 people, 78 percent of whom are from West Virginia. Workers from Fayette, Raleigh and Nicholas counties account for more than 30 percent of in-state workers, according to the BSA.

Additionally, BSA purchased more than $16 million in materials in West Virginia, with more than $9 million spent in Fayette, Raleigh and Nicholas counties.  

When Weber found out the Boy Scouts would be his new neighbor and host to the National Jamboree, he wanted to be involved.

"As an old Boy Scout and West Virginia businessman and local citizen here, I want to make the Boy Scout thing work and maybe make a few bucks selling T-shirts," Weber said.

Weber's store already designed and printed shirts in-house, so he thought "why not try and sell official Boy Scout apparel for the Jamboree?"

After several months of negotiations with the Boy Scouts, Spider's Cycle City, which specializes in motorcycle apparel, became an official licensed BSA retailer and has partnered with Belk's in the Crossroads Mall and local Little General stores to carry the merchandise.

Store customers can find various T-shirts, hats and drink holders displaying the official Boy Scouts Jamboree logo.

"The people that are buying it are tourists passing through that were once a Boy Scout who are saying, 'I can't get back to the Jamboree, but I'm going to buy a shirt while I'm here,'" he said.

"If we pay for all of our product and our overhead, I would be very happy because I want to say I was a part of it."

In addition to Weber's Spider Promotions, regional businesses Mountain Boys Coffee, Corporate Identity and East-West Printing sell official BSA licensed apparel.  

Christy Pack, operations manager for Belk's at Crossroads Mall, said they're always looking for new business, anything to help with business and with being involved with the community.

Belk's will carry a wider variety of BSA clothing than Spider's Cycle City, including fleece jackets for $40 and fishing shirts for $55.

"We have sold some but not a whole lot. It's just to our customers already," Pack said. "Once we get those banners up outside and traffic coming through, I think we'll blow [through] it."

Sharon Cruikshank, Fayette County Chamber of Commerce director, says people in the area are getting excited for the event, and she believes all of West Virginia will benefit from the Jamboree.

"We're just looking forward to seeing what happens," Cruikshank said. "It's kind of like Christmas -- you don't know what you're going to get, but you're still excited."

Weber and Kelly draw from lessons learned as Boy Scouts.

 "A lot of my business is pure out trading, and I remember that as a vivid lesson," Weber said. "It really stuck with me, to trade something of equal value."

Kelly, from Atlanta, is a third-party dealer of historical memorabilia such as hats, patches and books. His company, Big Rock Publishing, reproduces old Boy Scout literature as e-books available in the online Amazon bookstore.

He hears stories all the time from men saying when they were a Scout at a Jamboree or Order of the Arrow conference, they received more of a business education than they did in four years of college.

"In a very micro-economical way, you can take Boy Scout patches and find out very quickly how to buy and sell stocks on the stock market, how to buy and sell inventory, how to manage inventory and how to handle security of inventory," Kelly said.

When Kelly found out about the Jamboree location three years ago, he made his way to West Virginia. For the first time, he will host the Jamboree's trading show July 13-21 at the Mount Hope stadium.

"A national show like this Jamboree where people are coming from all across the country is better for a guy like me because I can reach people," Kelly said. "I could sell stuff online for $5 or whatever, but I can sell it here cheaper and to a whole lot more people."

Kelly anticipates about 80 tables of memorabilia. Dealers will arrive July 12, and the show is open to the public daily from noon to midnight.

"Some of the people are collectors and they're just trying to fill a specific need in a collection. Some are here to sell duplicates of patches or trade for memorabilia they need," Kelly said. "There's a market. Almost anything in the Boy Scout world is collectible to somebody."

Matt Ballard, president and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance, is optimistic about the short-term and long-term economic impacts from the Jamboree.

"I do think families and parents in particular will find their way to Charleston," Ballard said. "We're the most urban area in the state."

He hopes visitors will access the recently developed "My Chamber App," which determines a user's location and identifies local businesses and deals in the area.

Ballard hopes people visiting the state for the first time will have a better idea of what West Virginia has to offer and return for a vacation or possibly to open a new business.

"There will be some adapting. The market will determine how to entice people to travel to Charleston," he said. "We don't know the score until the game ends."

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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