For nearly seven years, Half Moon Outfitters has been an outdoor resource for Athens-area athletes, providing them with gear and helping them find the best place to use it.
“The cool thing about our store is that we have everything,” says store manager Chad Hall. “If you’re excited to do something in the outdoors, we can help you do it.”
That vision of Half Moon Outfitters as an outdoor resource is implanted in its DNA. The first store was opened in Charleston in 1993 and has now expanded to include nine stores in South Carolina and Georgia. The Athens store opened in 2008 as the sixth store in the group.
“For our audience the common dominator is the sports themselves,” says Beezer Molton, the store’s founder. “For these sports the age requirements are non-existent. We try to pursue the sports that we love and make sense for our brand.”
Those sports have changed over the years—and reflect each store’s community. But Half Moon Outfitters broadly covers most outdoor activities, including hiking, trail running, climbing, paddling and camping. In a place like Athens, with such a large student population, that includes resources for local getaways as well as far-flung adventures.
“With the study abroad program (at Georgia), we get a lot of people coming in here interested in travel,” Hall says. “Our mountain bike culture has also grown a lot. We now have lots of professional-quality trails that make it much more accessible now.
The definition of outdoor recreation has expanded since Molton opened his first store.
“That evolution has been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve watched in my 21 years in the business,” he said. “One of the turning points for me in this business was when the surf culture and backcountry ski culture slowly started to merge in 1994 around certain daypacks, flip flops, snowboards and long boards. There were certain products that started to bring these cultures together. I loved that fusion of sports.
“From that moment on for Half Moon it has been mixing and melding of interesting sports,” he said. “Everyone is participating in more than one sport. The fly fisherman is also a trail runner. That’s the way it’s going to be from here on out. People want to have multiple adventures and disciplines during a weekend. That appeals to me personally and that’s the approach Half Moon is built on.”
Events, seminars and ongoing demonstrations bring new people to the activities Half Moon promotes. “We build our events based on feedback from experiments we’ve tried in the past. The better event topics get repeated,” Molton says. “Our planning is based on feeling and what people are telling us.”
The rise in endurance sports has also created more opportunities for outdoor retailers. “Everyone loves a good run, and trail running is growing in popularity,” Hall says. “People will drive to get to trails, but there are some around here, like at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.”
Mud runs and other alternative running races are also opening people’s eyes to finding off-road adventure.
“Events are where you hear people say ‘This is the best day of my life,’” Molton says. “After you have a customer finish a 5k in the dirt or mud and get a very dramatic reaction. That’s when it hits home about how powerful these activities are and why we do what we do.”