President Rich Hill kicked off the evening by explaining the Grassroots History Project, which was started a few years back to trace the arc of the group’s growth as a powerful collaboration of retailers and brands. Through hundreds of hours of interviews with members—both from the early days and the present—Grassroots documented the trajectory of the group, which mirrors that of the outdoor industry as a whole.

Hill characterized the History Project as “a collection of stories, anecdotes, and exaggerations on how a small group of headstrong entrepreneurs used the power of sharing and trust to found a vibrant community of independent specialty retailers and their vendor partners.”

The evening was both festive and emotional, as all great celebrations are, with lots of stories, many laughs, a few tears, and a couple standing O’s.

The people’s choice: Nominees are chosen by the Grassroots teams and members vote to determine the winners.

Bob McCain of Buffalo Peak Outfitters, one of the original members of Grassroots and three-time board member, emceed the award presentations with humor and gusto. Here are this year's winners...

Retailer of the Year: Alpine Shop, St. Louis, Missouri

Russell ‘Holly’ Hollenbeck, who has owned and operated the store with his wife, Lisa, since 1978, fought back the emotion as he accepted the award. “My goal has always been to get up in the morning and be excited about going to work and have everyone who works for me feel the same way,” he said.

The North Face team accepts the Vendor of The Year Award at Grassroots Connect show 2019

The team from The North Face accepts the Grassroots Vendor of the Year award.

Vendor of the Year: The North Face

Last year, TNF pioneered a successful digital workbook platform and granted $10,000 to the Grassroots technology fund, which helps put iPads in the hands of retailers looking to digitize their buying process. "The North Face also does an excellent job of managing its marketplaces by controlling the number of sellers on those platforms," says Hill.

Retailer Growth Award: The Mountain Air, San Luis Obispo, California

Instagram post about REI by The Mountain Air

The Mountain Air posted this on Instagram, welcoming REI to its community.

The numbers tell the story here, and this award comes straight from Grassroots data, which show that in 2018, The Mountain Air excelled in sales growth and margin growth. “The other cool thing about The Mountain Air,” says Dana Howe, retailer relations manager, “is that they know that their market challenges are going to change, with REI moving in down the street this fall, but they’re embracing it approaching it with a lot of positivity.”

Friend of Grassroots Award: Terry Bemis of Conference Direct

This new award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the growth, development, and well-being of Grassroots. “Terry has been our point person in the search for new venues for our show, but he does so much more that what is normally asked from someone in his position,” says Devaki Murch, trade show manager. “He actually attends our show, works the registration desk and makes it a point to get to know everything about how we do business so he can better serve our needs.”

25 for 25 Award: Chally Sims of Pack Rat Outdoor Center

This special honor went to Chally Sims, manager at Pack Rat Outdoor Center for 25 years of service with the Fayetteville, Arkansas, retailer.

Merchandising Magic: Great Outdoor Store, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Honored for its unique and creative approaches to merchandising, Great Outdoor Store makes customers feel like they’ve been transported to another place. Merchandise is not organized in the traditional fashion—by brand—but rather by color and lifestyle to create product capsules according to how customers would wear pieces in real life.

Ed McAlister of River Sports Outfitter accepts the Community and Events award at Grassroots Connect 2019

Ed McAlister of River Sports Outfitter humbly accepts the Grassroots award for Community & Events flanked by his team.

Community and Events: River Sports Outfitter, Knoxville Tennessee

Accepting the award that celebrates stores with an exceptional commitment to their local communities, owner of River Sports, Ed McAlister, said, “Any store in this room could win this award. Everybody here does the same thing we do day in and day out. That’s why we [Grassroots] are special.”

The Golden Rolling Rack Award for Sales Reps


Kurt Smith took home the Golden Rolling Rack award for the Southeast.

This award honors sales reps who, who McCain called the “unspoken heroes of our industry” who are so critical to the relationship between retailers and vendors. This year’s winners represent four regions around the country:

  • Mitchell McGuinness (Mid-Atlantic)
  • Mike Felix (Midwest)
  • BJ Brewer (West and Rockies)


Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Awards

Congrats to the 2019 Grassroots Outdoor Alliance award nominees

Today Grassroots Outdoor Alliance announced the roster of finalists for its 2019 awards, which celebrate the very best in specialty outdoor retail. The winners will be crowned at the group’s Connect buying show on Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Awards are given more

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Awards

Retailer of the Year, Vendor of the Year, and more

Hundreds of representatives from outdoor brands and retailers gathered last night for the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance annual awards, which pay tribute to the vendors and retailers that are leading the outdoor industry in excellence. The presentation happened in Knoxville, more

filing cabinet

Save the trees: Grassroots Outdoor Alliance shifts toward paper-free future

At the end of any given trade show, outdoor retailers are left with stacks and stacks of paper catalogues from various brands. They have to make the choice to either ship them home to their store, pack them in their luggage, or toss them out.  "The carbon footprint gets to be more

crowd of people gathered at registration desk of Grassroots Connect show

What you missed at Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect Show

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect show went down as planned over the weekend, despite the cancellation of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, which was to be held in the days following Connect. Connect is a critical microcosm and bellwether of the outdoor industry, and SNEWS was more

Sunlight Sports

The best of the best

A Grassroots Outdoor Alliance award is a very big deal. The group, which is a consortium of 64 independent outdoor specialty retailers and 68 vendor partners, represents the best of specialty retail. The awards, which will be given out on June 13, 2018 on night one of the more

Grassroots 25th anniversary photo booth

Trade show report: Grassroots Connect Show

The Grassroots Outdoor Alliance worked hard and played hard at this year’s 25th anniversary show in Knoxville, Tennessee. On the first night, during a festive and nostalgic happy hour, dinner, and awards ceremony, members, staff, and special invited guests of the Alliance more

Mike Leffler

Retailers at Grassroots Connect speak up about struggles

The black-curtained maze at Grassroots Connect is swarming with like-minded independent specialty retailers placing orders, talking shop, sharing ideas and, yes, commiserating about the challenges they face every day in their businesses. This group of retailers, all members of more

Rich Hill, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance announces withdrawal from Utah

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance will not hold an event in Sandy, Utah in 2018 as planned, the organization has announced. Grassroots’ decision to withdraw is twofold, according to President Rich Hill. “Our membership is unanimous in opposing Utah’s public lands policy,” he said. more

Three generations of Rock and Snow owners: Andrew Zalewski, Rich Gottlieb, and Dick Williams.

A year-end update from Grassroots Outdoor Alliance

We’ve heard the storyline countless times throughout the pandemic: Outdoor sales have been a bright spot as people seek refuge outside. And while this dominant refrain is largely true, the real story for independent shops is more nuanced. “You can’t paint all retailers with the more