CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Owners of local hunting- and fishing-related businesses know the new Charleston-area Cabela's store will affect their businesses.
They just aren't sure how much.
The 80,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open Aug. 9, will sell fishing tackle, guns, bows, camping equipment, ATVs and apparel. Most of the stores in the Kanawha Valley that currently sell those things are mom-and-pop shops.
One of those operations, anticipating a dramatic loss of customers to the new Cabela's, went out of business June 30.
"I didn't think we could compete with them," said Joe Lewis, former owner of On The Fly, a small fly-fishing specialty shop in St. Albans. "They were going to be carrying a lot of the same brands we did, and with their buying power, they would be selling them for less than we did.
"For every item I ordered a dozen of, they would be ordering 5,000 -- and they'd get free shipping, which I didn't."
Lewis said Cabela's had the ability to affect his business in a way other big-box stores that carried fishing tackle could not.
"Most of the big boxes don't carry much, if any, fly-fishing equipment," he explained. "Cabela's is one of the few big boxes that know anything about fly fishing, and they hit it pretty hard. They even have separate catalogs for fly fishing and fly tying."
Even so, Lewis said Cabela's competitive advantage wasn't his sole reason for closing up shop.
"The weather stunk two springs in a row, and when the weather's bad people don't go fishing.
When they don't go fishing, they don't buy fly-fishing gear," he added. "And with the economy as shaky as it is, people didn't seem to be spending as much money on fishing."
Lewis had been in business less than 21/2 years when he decided to close.
Two other business owners, both of which have operated in the greater Kanawha Valley for more than 20 years, said they aren't very concerned about losing customers to Cabela's.