Outdoorsmen's mecca touts pageantry
Ohio's first Cabela's store opens Thursday at Polaris
High up on a ledge, two hungry grizzly bears close in on a bull moose. The moose has lowered his antlers, ready to charge.
Just behind, white-tailed deer and a massive elk stand at attention on a mountain slope. Around them, smaller critters scurry: a beaver, a weasel and a diamondback rattlesnake.
This isn't the great outdoors -- it's Columbus' new Cabela's store, a sprawling retail store at Gemini Place and Interstate 71, set for a grand opening Thursday, March 7.
The store sells a wide range of hunting, fishing, camping and boating equipment and apparel.
But General Manager Jim Daughtery said it's worth a trip to the store just to see the spectacle of its 400 taxidermy animals.
"We're the Disneyland of retail," Daughtery said. "People come in smiling and they smile until they leave."
The massive 80,000-square-foot store, complete with a log-cabin facade, is hard to miss at 1650 Gemini Place, just off the highway.
It's the first Cabela's store in Ohio. Previously, the nearest locations were in Triadelphia, W.Va., near Wheeling, and Dundee, Mich., just north of Toledo.
A huge faux mountainscape -- a Cabela's trademark -- dominates the back wall of the store, festooned with deer, mountain goats and a massive polar bear.
Wild turkeys roost and a bobcat prowls in the branches of freestanding tree sculptures, and mounted deer heads line the perimeter of the store.
A small waterfall cascades over rocks into a 6,000-gallon aquarium stocked with native trout and pike.
Daughtery said eventually local fisherman will be able to bring in their own catches to add to the tank.
The store features a large gun section and a gun library, a miniature museum for gun aficionados stocked with rare and unusual pieces -- all for sale.
A $26,500 Winchester Model 21 shotgun currently is the library's most-expensive offering.
The rare 1960s gun features two barrels of different gauges.
"They did not make a lot of guns like this," said Doug Lambert, the store's gun library manager.
Hunters interested in archery can try out any bow before buying in the archery range at the back of the store.
Fishermen can browse hundreds of poles and reels, plus high-tech fishing gadgets.
Campers can check out a range of equipment, from tents and grills to an outdoor shower with a water heater.
The store sells outdoor apparel, from camouflage to wading pants, as well as casual clothing and shoes in a number of brands.
Cabela's also features the Bargain Cave, an area featuring discounted products and special deals.
Daughtery said the store is manned by knowledgeable and experienced staff.
"We have experts in every department, from five years' experience up to 30 or 40 years' experience," he said.
Store management originally intended to hire 175 full- and part-time workers, but now it employs about 250 staff members, Daughtery said.
Hungry customers can grab a bite to eat at the River Walk Cafe before leaving the store. The menu features bison burgers, elk and boar, fudge and a children's menu.