By ANNA CATE LITTLE
A Homewood staple since the 70s, Alabama Outdoors received a facelift over the past year, and its new owners are focused on outfitting everyone from the seasoned expeditionist to kids playing in the park. Homewood resident Scott McCrory is president of the investment group who bought the retail chain last July. You’ll see subtle changes throughout the store, beginning with a fresh new logo featuring a stately tree outlined by the state of Alabama. But the store’s true mission, according to McCrory, is to be all things to all people.
“We’ve really tried to make this a place where a mom and her kids can feel at home as much as the hardcore outdoors people,” said McCrory, who recalls buying his first jacket at AO back in 1994. A CPA who left behind the world of suits and numbers for gear and adventures, Scott and his wife, Courtney, both graduated from Samford University.
“Our biggest change is a real focus on customer service and really listening to what the customer wants,” McCrory said. (Case in point: Parents will be happy to see kids Patagonia options back in stock this fall.) “People can come in just to look around and learn, or we can outfit them for year-round activities throughout the world. You don’t have to be a backpacker or climber to come to our store. People here are active and want to be outside, and those are the people we connect with on a regular basis.”
Aside from two levels of merchandise, the store’s climbing wall is a destination as well. Kids age five and up who reach a certain height criteria can host birthday parties at the facility. Climbing and bouldering competitions are held with prizes for different age levels. The AO staff is trained not only for extreme safety precautions but also to create a fun environment.
Throughout the year, classes and expos are offered on subjects ranging from primitive fire starting to how to choose a camping stove. Store managers are encouraged to be involved in community activities, from Ruffner Mountain trail races to the Alabama Cup canoe and kayak competitions.
Another noticeable change is the absence of signs that once prohibited kids from playing in the tents set up on the floor. “If our tents can’t take the abuse of a two or three year old running around in them, we don’t need to sell them!” McCrory said. “We want the things we sell to be used, not just looked at. This is not a museum.” Speaking of kids, last fall the McCrorys took their two-year-old son, Tyler, camping in North Carolina, proving that outdoor adventure is something to be enjoyed by all ages and types of people.
The summer inventory is ramping up with plenty of boats, kayaks and canoes, as well as water sandals and shoes. “It’s all about staying cool and dry,” said McCrory. Alabama Outdoors continues in its fourth decade to merge cutting edge technology with the coolest new fashions for outdoor living.
3054 Independence Drive 870-1919 http://www.alabamaoutdoors.com Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, 12-5 p.m.