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Home » Bigfork & the Swan Valley (c466) » Cabela’s Coming to Montana, Finally, But Not Fast Enough
If you aren’t into huntin’ and fishin’ like I am--along with the majority of Montanans, I might add--you might not know about Cabelas’s, so let’s start there. Cabela’s is the superstore of all superstores for people who hunt and fish. People like me have “Cabela’s problems” and need support groups. Cabela’s fans drive hundreds of miles to the nearest store and spend hundreds of dollars on every trip. Once in there, we can’t get out until our spouses threaten divorce or at least to drive home by themselves. As the lights start to go out, clerks come up and say, “Sir, we’re closing now. You have to leave. We can call you a cab.” Cabela’s stores run about 132,000 square feet, which is larger than some Wal-Mart Supercenters, and bring 200 good-paying jobs into a community, not counting want comes in through satellite development. Such a store automatically becomes an economic windfall for a small community, and Cabela’s often goes into small towns. It’s actually more than a retail store; it’s a tourist destination with gun libraries, displays of trophy racks and fish tanks full of lunkers. And finally, Cabela's plans to come to Montana.

Cabela’s Coming to Montana, Finally, But Not Fast Enough

If you aren’t into huntin’ and fishin’ like I am–along with the majority of Montanans, I might add–you might not know about Cabelas’s, so let’s start there.

Cabela’s is the superstore of all superstores for people who hunt and fish. People like me have “Cabela’s problems” and need support groups. Cabela’s fans drive hundreds of miles to the nearest store and spend hundreds of dollars on every trip. Once in there, we can’t get out until our spouses threaten divorce or at least to drive home by themselves. As the lights start to go out, clerks come up and say, “Sir, we’re closing now. You have to leave. We can call you a cab.”

Cabela’s stores run about 132,000 square feet, which is larger than some Wal-Mart Supercenters, and bring 200 good-paying jobs into a community, not counting want comes in through satellite development. Such a store automatically becomes an economic windfall for a small community, and Cabela’s often goes into small towns. It’s actually more than a retail store; it’s a tourist destination with gun libraries, displays of trophy racks and fish tanks full of lunkers.

For people like me, though, it’s an economic disaster. Each store has hundreds of thousands of SKUs for things like walleye jigs, .50 caliber cartridges, bass tubes, and camo butt warmers, but not one single item I need. But that little problem won’t even slow me down. As soon as I get access to a nearby Cabela’s, a huge percentage of my disposable income will disappear there. And the problem compounds. I spend so much money at Cabela’s that I have to work harder to make more money, which means I have less time to go out and use all the gadgets and gear I buy there.

Well, finally, it seems, Cabela’s is coming to Montana. Save your money. About two years from now, you’ll need it.

For years, I’ve been calling Cabela’s and asking store employees when they are coming to Montana, which seems like a terrific market for the country’s largest outdoor gear company. The Big Sky State is outdoor gaga.

No plans, I was repeatedly told, as I watched with despair as the new store opening announcements came out–Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Wheeling, Wyoming, Lehi, Utah, Boise, Idaho, among the last three, all shots in the heart for me. Then, I started hearing persistent rumors about Cabela’s going in along I-90 west of Bozeman, somewhere between Belgrade and the U.S. 287 junction. Both Three Forks and Manhattan have been rumored to be the sites.

Hoping it was true, I called Cabela’s again and talked to James Powell, who was a friendly, good news/bad news sort of guy. “Yes,” he said, Cabela’s is coming to Montana, “but not in the short term.” He said they were currently evaluating sites, but would not reveal which ones.

“We are in an aggressive expansion right now, and we agree that Montana is a very sportsman friendly state,” Powell said. “Montana is definitely a state we want to put a store in, but currently we have no plans to do so in the next one or two years.”

I’m hoping that means a deal is almost signed, and the store opens two years and one day from now.

“With a retailer like us, it’s a variety of factors,’ Powell explained. “It has to be the right market. Finding the right location takes a lot of research. We just haven’t found the right place yet in Montana to make it feasible.”

What makes it feasible? Cabela’s puts that on its website. New stores go into locations with these characteristics:

  • A minimum of 28-30 acres, 40-100 acres is preferred;

  • Have excellent “frontage” and are visible from an interstate highway;
  • Draw on a market of at least one million people within in 30-mile radius.
  • Set up for a new building instead of a remodel of an existing structure.
  • A few incentives always help.

Three Forks fits that profile. Might have to stretch the 30-mile radius a bit to get a million people, but if you could the people driving by on the freeway like Cabela’s has to justify it’s Mitchell, South Dakota store, it comes close. In reality, this site can draw from Bozeman, Belgrade, Butte and Helena as well as many small communities–and not counting people like me who will drive hundreds of miles to shop three.

You can’t blame Cabela’s for being tight with their plans. The company has to get all property purchases, leases signed, etc. before the official news hits the street. Otherwise, speculation drives prices up.

I made some calls down there and talked to two people in the Three Forks area who confirmed that Cabela’s reps have been in the area looking at sites in Belgrade/Manhattan/Three Forks corridor. Nonetheless, consider this article an advanced rumor–or in my case, advanced wishful thinking–but you know what they say about rumors. They’re only premature facts.

About Bill Schneider

Comments

  1. Jen. That Jen. says:

    I’ve heard they were checking Butte out as well – they like that the interstates cross here equidistant from Msla and Bozeman and Idaho Falls, and pretty much Great Falls and Helena…

    Regardless, it’ll be great for Montana, whereever they plop!

  2. Jerry says:

    I really think the Three Forks junction not the actual town of Three Forks would be perfect.

  3. jeff says:

    Why not be a yokel and buy local?

  4. Jerry says:

    Normally I do buy local (90% of the time)…however…200+/_ jobs in Southwest Montana…better product selection…lower prices compared to two local stores (that I know of)…seems like a fairly good fit.

  5. Jonathan Weber says:

    Three Forks or thereabouts certainly sounds logical. But, I sure as hell hope there will be NO SUBSIDIES!. If they want to build in Glendive or something that is one thing, but the Bozeman area is booming and hardly in need of more store-clerk jobs. It is entirely unfair to local small businesses and taxpayers when big, wealthy companies like Cabella’s get “incentives,” i.e. taxpayer subsidies. Bill, you said they offer “good-paying” jobs. How much do they pay and how did you make that assessment?

  6. Bill Schneider says:

    Jonathan,

    On their website, Cabela’s boasts about have the best jobs and benefits of anybody in their industry, sort of like Costco does for their market niche. I agree on the incentives, but they will probably get them nonetheless.

    Bill

  7. Robert Hoskins says:

    Well, as long as it doesn’t come to Wyoming …

  8. Bill Schneider says:

    P.S. Here is more information about the jobs from the job announcement for the Boise store and a link to another article on that state.

    Cabela’s Announces Plans for New Idaho Store
    Cabela’s Inc., one of the country’s largest outdoor gear companies, announced last month that it will open a new store in Boise. The 132,000-square-foot store is expected to bring 200 new jobs to the area. Idaho Commerce & Labor Director Roger B. Madsen said the company will make a significant impact on the area economy because Cabela’s stores traditionally draw additional businesses to the area and company officials are committed to purchasing from Idaho-based firms whenever possible. “Cabela’s ranks number one among its competitors for offering the best compensation and benefits to its full- and part-time employees,” said Madsen. “More than 40 percent of the people they plan to hire will be full-time and management-level positions, and the payroll and benefits paid out are expected to reach $4.9 million during the store’s first year of operation.”

    http://news.idaho.gov/pressdetail.aspx?temp=temp&pressid=354

  9. Bill Schneider says:

    Robert,

    You already have your store going into Wheeling.

    Bill

  10. Jonathan Weber says:

    The best jobs in a low-paying industry are not necessarily “good” jobs. But I don’t mean to run down Cabella’s, I don’t anything about their HR policies. But I do know that subsidizing economic development of this sort almost never makes any sense. It is, at best, a beggar-thy-neighbor game, and at worst it’s a form of extortion that increases the economic power of the big at the expense of the small. If they think Montana is a good market they will build here with or without subsidies and more power to them. If they bait the various towns into a bidding war it will serve no one’s interest except to make the store incrementally more profitable.

  11. MHG says:

    They also just announced a new store (or complex) coming to Post Falls, ID. Then it was announced that one or two hotels will be built next to it as well as an extended shopping area. (by private investors – not Cabellas) The hotels are being built – in part, I believe – to support the “tours” that travel to visit a Cabella’s. Apparently, it is as much a shopping experience as it is an education/interactive experience.

    I agree with Jonathan on jobs and incentives… Although, it does seem to be as much a “tourist attraction” as anything. Perhaps the Montana area they choose can capitalize on that potential. …just a thought.

  12. Tom Chambers says:

    These exciting new jobs and consumer spending don’t simply appear out of thin air. There is always an offset. In this case it’s at the expense of local and regional merchants.

    Smaller enterprises will be forced out of business causing financial hardship for their owners and employees. They will be forced to find employment elsewhere, maybe with the Big Box store which ruined them.

    Additionally, most of the Big Box store revenue will go out of state instead of being spent locally as it is by Montanan store owners.

    Before getting all giddy about a giant new toy store, I suggest we consider the continuing devastation of America’s small-town main streets.

  13. Bill Schneider says:

    I heard from James Powell at Cabela’s and he asked me to pass along a clarification to my readers. He asked me say that Cabela’s appreciates the interest everyone in Montana seems to have in a Cabela’s store and that Cabela’s is interested in exploring a Montana location, but the company has no firm plans for a Montana store at this time.

    Bill

  14. Jeff Milchen says:

    I’m deeply disappointed to see this info-mercial for Cabela’s Corproration on New West — that’s what the corporate media is for. Cabela’s is less a retailer than a corporate welfare extraction machine. Its average store steals more than $30 million from taxpayers’ pockets — a sum that makes Wal-Mart look like a model of free market competition. See http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate_subsidy/cabela.cfm

    With the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA.net) being based right in Bozeman, there’s no excuse for failing to get essential information like this for your report.

  15. Jeff Milchen says:

    I got distracted before posting my previous comment — I mean to note that I’m a co-founder of the AMIBA ( http://amiba.net ), which helps communities around the country start local IBAs. These Alliances help independent businesses compete effectively against the chains an prevent chains from displacing oportunities for local entrpreneurs.

    Stopping corporate subsidies is one realm where local IBAs have succeeded. For example: http://www.newrules.org/retail/news_archive.php?browseby=slug&slugid=187

  16. Matt says:

    All I know is that poltics aside – This is a GREAT thing for Montana sportmen (and women).
    If you have EVER tried to get everything you needed from a local sports shop, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I live in the Bozeman area, and though there are a few shops that have some good things, there is a DIRTH of choice and quality items. It’s sad really, because if there was a local store with any semblance of selection and quality, I’d go there…
    Incidentally, there is plenty of corperate america to go around, and if a Cabelas store helps me to complete my “Montana Lifestyle” then so be it. My income is low, my play level is high. This is why I live here and chose not to leave the state, even though I have many relatives that have done so.

    Some of the replies to this post have caused to ask the question: “If a local shop cannot provide for the needs of the consumer, what’s the matter with giving them competition to consider doing so?” It’s super easy for someone to say, “buy local!” but when the choices are slim, that is easier said than done.
    I certainly don’t advocate the exinction of Mom and Pop stores – as often times they provide the quality of service and products that will keep me coming back for more.
    BUT, what I do advocate is stimulation into an area of our economy that I feel has gotten a free ride and has not been challenged. If this gets a local store to kick it in gear and up their quailty of customer service and selction then I am a happy man.
    There will always be place I go to buy my firearms, my fly tying materials, etc… but this is a place for all the rest of the crap that you can’t seem to buy anywhere else, but get to buy online.

    Sorry for the rant.

  17. Vicki Frei says:

    You don’t want Cabela’s in Montana? Fine, send it here to St George Ut. Sure, Sportsmans’ Warehouse just opened up here – but y’know what? Can’t hold a candle to Cabela’s – not even on a dark night in the middle of December….

    Mom n Pop stores – we have a couple of those in Southern Utah. They don’t bother to carry anything anyone wants to buy (and the “service” is of the “oh, well if it’s not on that shelf there we don’t bother to carry it” version…. and if one asks “could you order this/carry this in future, the reply is generally of the “you’ve GOT to be kidding!” sort) so of course, we all order online. What, you’re saying just buy what they offer, even if it’s not what you need? Thanks, I’ll pass – that’s why I have a computer and the ‘net.

    Send ‘em here…. we’ll give them a very warm welcome.

  18. Mike Childers says:

    Cabelas is as much as tourism operation as it is a retail store. I am one of those who has driven five hours to spend a day, and much of my pay check, at the Cabelas in Sidney. I apoligzed to the folks in Sidney, but I wouldn’t even bother get off the interstate there if it were not for the Cabelas store. As to the buy local thing, don’t we still stop in to our local shop when we need something on the fly or can get a hook up? Retail is still retail.

  19. Timothy Border says:

    Rumor has it that the newly constructed pond at the Manhattan interchange is the location of the new store. A pond to demonstrate various items carried in the store. Sportsmen Warehouse is also opening a new store next to Home Depot in Bozeman. Boulder, CO and the Front Range welcome to Gallatin Valley, a beautiful place we cannot wait to destroy.

  20. Daniel Kostelnik says:

    It would sure be nice to have such an attraction. Course, they won’t get much of my money. I’ve been getting Cabela’s catalogs since back when they were the only place you could get hunting and fishing gear. Then they became the place you could get the good stuff for less. Now they’re “high fashion.” Big money!!! Why buy a camo outfit from them for $300 when I can get one that works just as good at Wal-Mart for around $100? Less than that if I wait for clearance. Course, maybe if I got one of those good Cabela’s jobs, I could afford to buy their stuff. But then I could still get three times as much at WM!!! I guess those high prices are to pay for all those catalogs they send me. I used some gift certificates about 3 years ago. Other than that, my last order was in 1987 or so.

  21. Daniel Kostelnik says:

    Buy Local!!! Ha Ha LOL!
    Reminds me of a funny story about the big brewhaha over Home Depot and Lowes, with Simkins and Kenyon et al. chanting, “Buy Local!!” I asked them why they never had any Louisiana-Pacific Belgrade studs in stock. They said L-P charged too much. Of course, I knew for a fact that L-P studs were priced on the daily commodity exchanges like everyone else’s, and the plant manager had offered free local delivery. On top of that, Home Depot discovered that L-P Belgrade studs were of such consistent high quality that they could sell every single board in a unit without having to discount any ugly ones. They actually came to L-P Belgrade and offered to pay extra for a constant supply. Paid for UPC labeling, too.

  22. Daniel Kostelnik says:

    Ohh Yeah.. Poor Mom & Pop gonna go out of business. Have you seen the two new Kenyon Noble stores?
    Sportsman’s Warehouse is coming soon!! Just as good of stuff as Cabela’s, much less expensive.
    I had a roommate from Seattle. He mostly shopped at Nordstrom’s. Came with me to Wal-Mart once. At first he was snickering. Then he picked up a pack of T-shirts and said, “Hey, wait a minute! These are the same exact shirts I’ve been paying 30 bucks for!” They were $8.99 or so.
    A fool and his money are soon parted.
    They’re gonna pave this valley from Story Hills to the Elkhorns. Might as well have some place where you can go look at stuffed examples of the wildlife that used to live there. And rich fools need a place to shop too.

  23. Tired of free advertising says:

    I gotta agree with Jeff on this one – this column belopngs in your Blogvertorial section.
    A store might move here, but nobody’s sure?? Nope, not news – It’s free advertising for the Hummer of outdoor stores.
    BTW – killing exotic animals, stuffing them, and placing them on fake plastic rocks is most assuredly NOT “conservation.” (Cabela’s displays a jumble of carcasses in their stores and calls it “Conservation Mountain”) I know I’ll get hell for saying this, but the “conservation ethic” that says “Save It so I can Blow it Away!” is the kind of self-serving crap we need to get away from.

  24. buddy from butte says:

    they have already chosen billings !

  25. Bill Schneider says:

    Buddy,

    What makes you think Billings? Everything I hear is somewhere west of Belgrade.

    Bill

  26. Aaron says:

    Most of you Montana’s are just plain ignorant. You all cry “mom and pop.” Please save our itty bitty stores. Give me a break! Look at Montana, there isn’t a decent sporting goods store in the whole state! Now take Great Falls for example, we have a Big bear, Big R, Scheele’s and the famous Wally World. Wal-mart is not a hunting store (sorry to inform you of that) and the other three are so under stocked it isn’t even funny. Every time I go into one of these stores to buy something they never have what I am looking for. For the grace of god they do have something (once in a blue moon) they are so darn overpriced. I have bought my hunting equipment from Cabelas.com since I have been working and had money in my pocket. I am only 26 years of age and will not buy crap these Montana stores are selling! Cabelas you can’t get here soon enough, Ladies and Gentlemen…….that’s the freaking truth! Also 200 jobs seem pretty good or we could just ask for another Casino (I believe there is still one or two building in Montana that doesn’t have a Casino yet).

  27. Steve says:

    Cabelas signed the papers for a store in Billings (on Zoo Drive).. Construction to begin this summer. Hit the news on February 12th. As far as the Mom and Pop shops.. I agree with most of the bloggers here.. I live in Bozeman, and I cant find WATERFOWL loads in mid November.. R U KIDDING ME?!?! And for those that think that Cabelas is going to ruin Montana? I am sure that person is probably a real estate developer, or a General Contractor!! This isnt the Montana of 20 yrs ago, It is the Montana of today.. and good for us for finally getting some REAL businesses here to take care of the folks that spend most of their disposable income, and time, in the outdoors. I for one have been a proud Cabelas customer for many years. They have HANDS DOWN, the best technical hunting clothing in the industry.. No one can compete.

  28. edwiest says:

    If it were a vote I would have to pick Helena. It is centrally located. There will be better coverage of the state by placing iy right in Helena. Helena is booming too. Aside from those reasons, the best reason I can think of is that,……………………………………………..I LIVE THERE :)

  29. Jim says:

    They chose the biggest city in the state, Billings. Bozeman is a tourist town and does not have enough people living there for a Cabella’s.