Tom Valone founded Great Outdoor Provision Co. in 1972. Starting with a 120-square-foot footprint in the back of a bicycle store in Carrboro, NC, the operation has thrived and expanded to seven locations in North Carolina, from Charlotte to Wilmington, and two locations in Virginia (Charlottesville, and Virginia Beach).
In 2013, Valone sold the company to four senior managers. Today, Chuck Millsaps, president, Travis Zarins, vp of merchandise, Molly Cherry, vp of retail support and Bill Mauney, vp of retail management, are carrying Valone’s vision to new generations of outdoor enthusiasts.
“As a locally owned shop, we’re committed to providing personalized retail service in a relaxed atmosphere. Our staff is comprised of adventurers who thrive on helping customers to plan their next trip and select the right gear that will help them meet their goals while looking good in the process,” says Chad Pickens, manager of the Great Outdoor Provision Co. Chapel Hill location. “In addition to the best lifestyle apparel and footwear brands, our shop is filled with kayaks and canoes, backpacking and hiking gear, fly fishing equipment, and travel luggage and accessories.”
Great Outdoor Provision Co. serves a multi-generational customer base. “The boomers were our customers when we opened in 1972. And as they aged, they brought their families in to shop with them. It was, and still is, important that we have a product mix that appeals to all those generations represented," says Chuck Millsaps, president. “Today we see the boomers with more leisure time available and they are thriving in the new sport categories, like kayak fishing, fly fishing, and glamorous camping. The boomers have always had a purpose to their purchase and now they can direct it to local business that are connected to their community.”
Outdoor enthusiasts come to Great Outdoor Provision Co. for the gear, apparel, and equipment they need to run, paddle, hike, backpack, and much more. “Outdoor sport options are all around us, from trail runs at Duke University’s Al Buehler Cross Country Trail, hiking at Eno River State Park, and paddling at Jordan Lake,” says Pickens. He added that one of the staff’s favorite local gems is the American Tobacco Trail (ATT), a popular local Rails-to-Trails project that provides more than 20 miles of repurposed abandoned railroads that now serve as hiking and biking trails.
Great Outdoor Provision Company has launched “Get Hiking,” a group hiking program that invites new customers to participate in outdoor recreation and to position the store as a portal for information about hiking gear and local destinations. “Our Get Hiking group is now comprised of nearly 2,000 folks across North Carolina who join us for weekly hikes led by our staff. These day-hike adventures have been a great way to strengthen our relationships with customers and broaden their interest in equipment,” says Millsaps.
The in-store experience is a critical strategy for building long-term loyalty and brand performance. “Our customers require authenticity and keep us honest in telling our brand message. Our staff on the retail floor are the most important part of the equation as they are the evidence that we truly know and go outdoors,” says Millsaps. "We are fortunate to hire staff that love the active outdoor lifestyle and enjoy serving others.”
Travis Zarins, vp of merchandise adds, “We are not just a gear store or an outdoor lifestyle store. We have product collections to meet almost every need.”