Do you know your Cabela’s history?


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.

M.O. Stevens on wikimedia commons.

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.”

R&T De Maris photo.

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.

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Bob M
1 day ago

Cabela’s has gone downhill since Dick Cabela passed away and Bass Pro bought them up. They have also bought Sportsmans Warehouse.

1 year ago

My hubby had a part-time retirement job at Cabela’s prior to 2014. It was a great place to work then. We have a couple of stores that have become regular stops over the years. Since the Bass Pro buy out things have changed. We are seeing more stores with their RV areas closed or blocked. I’m hoping it’s not going to be new norm.

1 year ago

Unfortunately the Cabela’s on I-35W North of Fort Worth, TX has closed its dump station and placed huge boulders at the entrance to its RV and truck parking area.
No explanation given. This was always my last stop before returning home. I would empty my tanks and restock my sporting goods supply. Now I do most of my shopping at Bass Pro and Academy.

Linda Brady
1 year ago

In my “neck of the woods” Cabela’s appears to now be a Camping World! CW campers are for sale in the Cabela’s parking lot, and if you venture into a CW Retail Store much of the GS merchandise is now labeled as Cabela’s stuff. I’d heard good old Marcus Lemonis has taken over the Cabela’s chain…so sad 😢

1 year ago
Reply to  Linda Brady

cabelas was brought by Bass Pro. Marcus Lemonis brought Gander Mountain

Billy Bob Thorton
1 year ago

Cable’s yes, Dicks NO. He stood up to the PC crowd, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Love the themed stores depending on where you are in this great country. God Bless Mr. Cabela.

M. Will
1 year ago

Cabela’s is a good company and have been buying from them for many years and that will probably continue. My only hope is that the merger or buyout by Bass Pro Shops doesn’t eventually mess the whole thing up.

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Will

Hi, M. Will. Bass Pro Shops acquired Cabela’s in 2017, then sold 11 of the stores this past June. So, hopefully things will continue smoothly. (My sons sure enjoy shopping at Cabela’s! I guess I’ll have to go check it out sometime.) 😀 –Diane at (aka Mountain Mama)