Cabela's officials invited the media into their new Charleston store earlier this week for a sneak peek ahead of the store's Aug. 9 grand opening.
I took the tour. A few impressions:
The new store isn't as big as the Wheeling store. In fact, it's only two-thirds the size. The Wheeling facility encompasses 120,000 square feet, the Charleston store 80,000.
There's no airplane. A yellow floatplane dominates the overhead space at the Wheeling store. The Charleston store represents a new, more compact design concept that lacks room for such fancy, space-eating ornaments.
There's no sculpture. Most previous Cabela's stores have had giant pieces of bronze wildlife sculpture standing near the front entrance. For the Charleston store, Cabela's officials opted to welcome customers with a large, dramatic taxidermy diorama located just inside the front doors.
Taxidermy abounds. Store officials said there are 243 mounts, many of which depict dramatic vignettes of wildlife activity - a grizzly bear locked in mortal combat with a bull moose, a wolf leaping to hamstring a fleeing caribou, a mountain lion pouncing from an overhead tree.
Paul Manktelow is a very, very talented chap. He's the Nevada artist who hand-painted all of the mural-sized backdrops for the major taxidermy displays. He did it all freehand, without templates. Impressive.
A couple of the game animals in the store's mountainous main taxidermy exhibit were killed in West Virginia - Carson Birchfield's trophy whitetail, killed in 2007 in Logan County; and Dale Redman's black bear, killed last year in Greenbrier County.