Donnie Holbine

Donnie Holbine

Cabela’s carves niche in sporting goods market

The displays are up, shelves are filled and the stock is being priced in preparation for the opening of Cabela’s seventh Canadian store.

The displays are up, shelves are filled and the stock is being priced in preparation for the opening of Cabela’s seventh Canadian store.

The company, which started out as a Nebraska-based, mail-order supplier of fishing flies in 1961, has grown to become one of the world’s biggest outdoor sporting goods retailers where shoppers can buy everything from the latest carbine hunting rifles to pink camouflage lingerie from the company’s newest location in Dickinson Crossing in north Nanaimo.

Cabela’s is continuing its tradition of presenting customers with something more than a mere sporting goods retail outlet by designing each of its stores to provide an outdoor experience that includes interactive educational kiosks, an indoor archery range and archery tech room, hand-painted murals and a replica mountain range covered with museum-quality animal mounts in a retail space that feels more like the interior of a big hunting and fishing lodge.

“We have buyers constantly looking for examples of fine taxidermy and there are also people who want to donate their mounts for display in our stores,” said Nathan Borowski, Cabela’s spokesman during a media tour of the Nanaimo store last week.

The 150-member staff has been hired locally and all are keen outdoor enthusiasts and experts in their particular fields or outfitters.

The company’s product lines extend to the home as well. Borowski said the idea is to offer customers the entire outdoor experience from killing game in the field to preparing recipes at home with the store’s inventory of food preparation and cooking products.

Furnishings for homes and cabins are also on hand, children’s toys, stuffed animals, air rifles, pet care and training supplies, metal detectors and other treasure hunting and gold panning supplies, plus fishing, hunting and action sports electronics products including side-scan sonar, action cams, GPS units, timepieces and laser rangefinders.

Cabela’s tailors its products, and to some extent even its interior decor, to local markets. Wall photos and painted murals depict images of Island locations, such as the Cowichan River, and are displayed in the fly fishing shop.

The Nanaimo store has one of the chain’s largest selections of saltwater fishing gear and also boasts what is likely the Island’s most comprehensive stock of Islander Precision Reels, manufactured on the Island. Products carried represent those that were in high demand by Cabela’s existing online customer base in the mid-Island region.

The store even has a fudge shop.

Cabela’s hosts its official grand opening in Nanaimo Sept. 11 starting at 10:45 a.m. that will culminate with the ribbon being cut by an arrow shot from a bow, triggering a weekend-long celebration highlighted by special appearances, family events, giveaways and more.

A complete schedule of events, when finalized, will be available on the company website at