In 1986, Bob McCain thought Jackson, Mississippi, ought to have its own outdoor equipment shop. His home state might not have massive mountains, but trails, waterways, hill, and views are plentiful. Buffalo Peak Outfitters is now in its 33rd year, as a Grassroots Outdoor Alliance member and a hidden gem in a city not usually described as "outdoorsy."
The store has benefitted from steady growth, knowing when to pivot and capitalize on trends. It has expanded five times to fill a 9,000-square-foot space today in the same shopping center it started in. Two big, nautical doors with round windows open up to an outdoor adventurer's paradise of packs, jackets, YETI coolers, and more.
McCain and his wife still work in the shop almost every day, and now their son Cody McCain serves as the store's brand manager. He shared more about how the business has survived and thrived through the decades.
Buffalo Peak Outfitters was selected by SNEWS editors as the seventh featured #CoolShop, as part of the new #CoolShop Awards. Nominate your favorite specialty outdoor shop to be featured and voted as the best shop at the end of the year.
On being the first outdoor store in Jackson, Mississippi: "One thing that sets us apart is being the first in town carrying this type of product. We were founded in 1986. Our long history has given us the reputation of having quality items. Customers trust us."
On things to do outside in Jackson: "There’s not a whole lot of outdoor stuff, so people travel to other places like New Zealand and the Appalachian Trail. But here, we have a parkway, Barnett Reservoir, and LeFleur's Bluff State Park. People hike and run the trails and kayak and canoe in the water. We used to do a bunch of gear demos at the state park when we sold kayaks."
On adapting over the years: "We started out mainly selling hiking equipment, backpacks, and trekking poles. But my dad quickly realized that if we wanted to survive and succeed, we needed to focus on men's and women's clothing. It became fashionable to wear that type of clothing, so most of the business is there now. We focus on around-town and travel, along with southern lifestyle brands like Southern Marsh."
On partnering with big brands and local companies: "We love working with brands and as many local people as we can. Last May, we celebrated KEEN's birthday. We’ve got a craft popsicle shop in our shopping center and we collaborated on a specialty popsicle promoting their UNEEK shoe. I think those types of partnerships help people locally connect to the worldwide brands that we carry."
On being an environmentally conscious store in Mississippi: "We support brands like Patagonia that care about the environment. We definitely have a mix of customers that either want to support those efforts or don’t care that much. The rural communities are more conservative, so there's not a whole lot of environmentally focused people. But I think people in Mississippi are catching onto being more conscious and it’s getting more and more popular."
On selling online: "We sell about 50 to 75 percent of product online. All of our inventory is listed through Locally. You can buy it online, but you have to come pick it up in the store still. We love making face to face contact with people. I think that ultimately we will put everything online. We’re currently trying to figure out what that looks like and how expensive it is. We have a good thing going, so we don't want to make that jump and not be ready for it."