By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Many RVers have taken advantage of the “RV welcome mat” extended by Cabela’s sporting goods stores. Many of the retailer’s parking lots have dump stations, some of them even for free use. And taking a hike through Cabela’s is like visiting a giant “man cave.” If you’re into the outdoors, you need to go into Cabela’s – it’s like being outside, while inside.
Do you know the history of how Cabela’s came to be? It all started with co-founder Dick Cabela. “Dick, along with his wife, Mary, and brother, Jim, founded Cabela’s somewhat inadvertently in 1961 when he purchased $45 worth of hand-tied fishing flies while in Chicago on a furniture and housewares buying trip with his father for the family’s Chappell, Nebraska furniture store,” says a news release.
Apparently Dick found furniture easier to sell than fishing gear, because when those fishing flies didn’t “fly off the shelf,”‘ Cabela tried a different approach. He put an ad in a Casper, Wyoming, newspaper selling his gear by mail – and drew exactly one sale. Not ready to throw in the sinker, a new advertisement in Sports Afield magazine read, “FREE introductory offer!!! 5 popular Grade A hand-tied flies. Send 25c for postage and handling.” That advert worked like a magnet and orders poured in. Cabela quickly saw the light and ordered more gear. He and his wife put out a “catalog” consisting of three mimeographed pages, which he added to every order he sent out.
So much for tables, chairs and sofas. Dick’s original $45 worth of fishing tackle was eventually transformed into a $3.6 billion company with a huge, colorful, glossy paper catalog and an Internet presence known around the world.
On Dick Cabela’s death in 2014, a company announcement read, “Outdoorsmen and women have lost a true friend, a man who improved their lot by putting them first, by working to provide what they wanted and needed for their hunting and fishing adventures. He pushed for research and development in every outdoor field. Dick always looked out for the customer and if he couldn’t find a vendor to provide what he wanted, he pushed Cabela’s to design and make it. Because of that passion, the Cabela’s brand and its products are iconic throughout the world.”
Next time you pull into a Cabela’s for an overnight stop, be glad Dick Cabela stayed on top of his dream. After all, old fishermen never die, they just get reel tired.