Adventure Outfitters closing
GORDON DANIELS Michael Zabre, owner of Adventure Outfitters, kayaks on the Connecticut River in Sunderland
HADLEY — Thirty-two years and hundreds of kayaks after it opened, Adventure Outfitters is closing up shop.
“We are just selling out as much as we can as fast as we can,” said founder and owner Michael Zabre, who expects that the store will close in May.
Zabre, 65, said he is closing the business because he would like to retire and was unable to sell it. In his retirement he plans to spend time hiking, camping and boating.
“We consider ourselves an adult toy store,” he said, and he is eager “to finally use my toys a little more.”
On the other hand, John Cronin, director of planning and analysis for the Tiger Group, hired by Zabre to handle the store’s liquidation, said last week that Adventure Outfitters is closing “as a result of the tough economy and two warm winters in a row.”
When Zabre founded Adventure Outfitters in 1981, the shop was in a 700-square-foot space in the Carriage Shops in Amherst. Over the years the store has moved five times and grown more than 10-fold. For the past 16 years Adventure Outfitters has been in a 10,000-square-foot space at 451 Russell St.
The stock that the store carries is also different than it was in the early days. Zabre said that the store has seen “quite a lot of changes” in the market, and it has expanded its offerings as trends in outdoor activities have evolved. When Zabre began selling adventure gear, kayaking was not yet popular and he didn’t stock climbing equipment, he said.
The trademark of Adventure Outfitters is expertise, Zabre said.
“We had the experience,” he said. “The only way we could compete is to really have the knowledge.”
The staff received weekly trainings on the products they stocked, and their focus has been on helping customers find equipment that they will use and enjoy so it doesn’t collect dust in their garages, Zabre said.
Zabre, who lives in South Deerfield with his wife, said that before he opened the store he worked as an operations manager for a technology business in Michigan. When he moved to the Valley, he had difficulty finding a job in business. An avid outdoor enthusiast, he eventually decided to start his own shop.
The store now employees 10 people. Three of the staff members work full time, while the other seven are part time, according to Zabre.
Zabre said he found two potential buyers for Adventure Outfitters, but they were unable to get financing. Each potential buyer had enough capital to finance 20 percent of the purchase, but the banks were seeking a 40 percent down payment, Zabre said.
So Zabre is liquidating, and Adventure Outfitters will retire with its founder. Zabre said that the sale of the merchandise and the storefront, which he owns, will finance his retirement.