Backcountry Experience sold to Ben Rockis

Kirk Singer, owner of the Backcountry Experience in Durango, Colo., since 1979, has sold his store to Ben Rockis, formerly the general manager for Riversports Outfitters in Knoxville, Tenn.
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Kirk Singer, owner of the Backcountry Experience in Durango, Colo., since 1979, has sold his store to Ben Rockis, formerly the general manager for Riversports Outfitters in Knoxville, Tenn.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Singer told SNEWS he was very pleased. With the purchase, Rockis acquires a 5,760-square-foot space with a lease at $9.50 per square foot, according to records.

Rockis told us he had been looking to purchase a retail store location for the last year when everything just fell into place.

"I saw the store listed for sale in SNEWS, and within three days I was out here looking at the books and a week later, I owned the store," Rockis said.

Singer, who sold his other store in Sante Fe, N.M., last year to John Asher, was simply tired of the changes in Durango that made it hard for him to love retail in the location anymore.

"Durango is getting less earthy and far more upscale," Singer said. "Combine those changes with the poor business climate, the poor snow over the last several years and the fire, and it was a clear message that it was time for me to get out."

Singer and his wife have sold their home and Nissan Pathfinder and purchased an RV with the intention of working seasonally for the Forest Service and Park Service. Singer told us that he's made the final cut to work for Mount Saint Helens.

As for what Rockis plans, he's all about having fun, he told us.

"I want to get the store more involved in the community and absolutely work to have fun. My store needs to be fun for the staff, fun for the customers, fun for me," Rockis said. "My goal is to become a friend to the locals, and if I can do that, I will be able to carve a very successful niche for myself."

Rockis also said that he intends to differentiate himself from Pine Needle, the other specialty outdoor store in Durango, by being the best climbing store and best boot store in town. He also intends to look at other product areas not being well-served by stores in the area.

SNEWS View: Rockis has his work cut out for him. He's not only purchased a store that has seen its reputation among reps and others in the industry wane in recent years, he's also purchased a retail operation that will have to reenergize itself with the locals if he hopes to compete successfully against another specialty outdoor retailer in town, one now owned and run by a very experienced local, Keith Roush. New product mixes, community connections and top-notch service are all great ideas. Now it remains to be seen how well Rockis delivers with the dream he's managed to secure. There is definitely room for two stores in Durango -- as long as both are very, very good. Pine Needle has its act together, the rest is up to Rockis.


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