When the doors of 3 Rivers Outdoor Co. (3ROC) open for the first time in spring of 2018, the owners, Christine Iksic and Chris Kaminski, both 37, will already know a whole lot about their customer base.
In the last year, the Pittsburgh duo has hosted two pop-up gear stores they call Gear Fest. The events serve as way for the local outdoor community together in one place and participate in a huge consignment gear sale.
Close to 1,000 people showed up to both the first event in April and the second one this past Saturday, held in central Pittsburgh locations.
It bodes well for the brick and mortar store that the two have dreamed of opening in their hometown.
Iksic and Kaminski are using the events’ profits to help fund the opening a brick and mortar outdoor shop this spring. They’ve also donated a portion of the sales to local outdoor nonprofits in the area.
“You can’t just open a store and put products in it and turn on the lights and think that you’re going to be successful, because you’re not,” said Iksic. “We might be a little naive because we haven’t been retailers before, but three years of research and the feedback from attendees of the Gear Fests shows that people want a store and they want someone to talk to.”
On October 14. Iksic and Kaminski also launched an Indiegogo campaign to share their story and raise an extra $50,00, which they'll spend on specific amenities, such as an outdoor fire pit, a library for an adventure planning section, and wall mural painted by a local artist. Perks for donors include 3ROC stickers, an artisan skincare kit, trucker hats, a handmade longboard, and rafting, SUPing and biking trips — all provided by local supporters.
“We really wanted to be a hub for the Pittsburgh outdoor community,” Iksic said. “I remember going to Bozeman and thinking, these are my people — these 35-year-old women like me wearing Chacos and pigtails and going out to the bar. I thought, where are my people like that in Pittsburgh?”
After Iksic lived in New Zealand and Kaminski lived in Crested Butte, Colorado, the two were happily surprised to find they wouldn’t have to sacrifice their adventurous lifestyles when they returned to the Pennsylvania city. Located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, they found places to whitewater raft and mountain bike right in their backyard.
“You don’t have to have a huge fourteener or something to be living an adventurous life,” Iksic said. “You make adventure wherever you’re at.”
But they didn’t know of one central location to find other people that spent their weekends like they did. One day out mountain biking, Iksic told Kaminski she always wanted to open a brewery and Kaminski told her he wanted to sell used gear out of a van in Colorado. That discussion soon turned into a new goal: being the owners of a specialty outdoor shop.
Now with a lease in their pockets, a snazzy logo, and the confidence that there are lots of fellow outdoor-lovers in Pittsburgh, they’re aiming to be up and running in a 2,800-square-foot space adjacent to Frick Park in the charming Regent Square neighborhood, close to trails as well as breweries.
“It’ll be great for us to be able to do meet ups and drinks after runs and rides and things like that,” Iksic said. Her other visions for the space include covering either the walls or floors with vintage topography maps and hanging apparel from stands made from recycled bicycle wheels. “A kind of place that you want to linger, not just shop.”
When 3ROC opens, it will fill a void as the only independent outdoor retailer other than two REIs south of the city, Iksic said. Shelves and racks will be stocked with a mix of consignment tents and backpacks as well as new sustainable and eco-conscious products from brands such as Patagonia, prAna and Outdoor Research. Iksic said they’ve been going to Outdoor Retailer for years, and have already been in talks with many companies.
Iksic’s and Kaminski’s focus now until opening day is to have the lease signed in the next few weeks, build out the space, and fill it with products. At the start, items can only be purchased in the store, but their long-term goal is to also sell items online.
The next Gear Fest will come after day one, but when many outdoor shops are struggling, some even shutting down, it’s nice to hear about a next-gen shop that’s thinking outside the box to serve its community.
“It’s about this city and it’s about the people here,” Iksic said. “We’re here to help anybody and everybody get outdoors.”