Every day is an adventure for Brittney and Jonathan Meier, who opened Wanderlust Outfitters in September 2016 in St. Joseph, Michigan. Situated on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, they're surrounded by forests, streams, and other natural wonders, perfect for outdoor exploration.
"The outdoors was always our favorite place to be," Brittney Meier said. "For years, we sort of jokingly said if we could do anything, we’d get other people outside."
The couple had no outdoor industry experience before they decided to fill the community's need for a local outfitter. But their past experience in marketing and wholesale distribution in other industries paired well with their love of the outdoors.
Three years feels like one to them because it's been that busy.
Wanderlust Outfitters was selected by SNEWS editors as the tenth featured #CoolShop, as part of the new #CoolShop Awards. Read about the other nine outstanding shops written about in 2019.
A nod to the town's history
With a domed roof and tall, white pillars out front, the building at 120 State Street still looks like a bank. Inside, it also does in some creative ways. That's how the Meiers want it.
"We wanted to preserve as much history as possible," Brittney Meier said.
The building dates back to 1908, when it housed the town's bank. Customers who've been in town long enough tell the Meiers they banked there or took out their first loan there. It closed in the '70s or '80s, then became a credit union, then a tourism bureau, then sat vacant until the Meiers came along.
The crown molding, tile floors, and facade are all original. Behind upcycled barn wood fixtures, they're preserving the original marble. And perhaps the most unique historic touches are the dressing rooms, converted from old money vaults dating back to the 1890s. The Meiers even called their past season, discounted section on their website "The Vault" to honor the building's history.
"The Vault isn’t on our floor anymore, but even our local customers know where it is," Brittney Meier said. "It's another awesome way our website enhances our brick and mortar."
Handpicked items for all customers
As weekend warriors themselves, the Meiers understand that not everyone is into rugged adventures. That's why they challenged their staff to curate hand-selected lists for all types of customers: the Indoorsman, Everyday Adventurer, Day Tripper, Overnighter, Mini Trekker, Minimalist, and more identities. That way, it's easy for online customers to feel included and for staff to direct in-store customers to certain products.
For example, if someone asks for the best car camping products, they can turn to "The Drive-In" list, which includes the Kelty Sequoia 6 tent, a Leki timeout camp chair, and an MSR camp pot set.
Plus, each item has its own little "Wanderlust Story" product description that's honest, irreverent, and helpful.
"What makes our team so great is that they are so diverse in their outdoor pursuits—just like our customers," Brittney Meier said. "Some are tried-and-true distance thru-hikers, some have traveled the world as missionaries, some just love day hikes and hammocking at the beach. And even though they enjoy the outdoors differently, they are all super passionate about it."
While the Meiers are experienced hikers, campers, and backpackers—even taking their 4-year-old son along with them—they're also not too proud to say they enjoy backyard camping every once in a while. The couple and their staff celebrate all types of adventure.