Bass Pro brings outdoors in

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

There are areas inside the new Bass Pro Shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake that still look like a construction zone, but the rustic outdoor-themed interior customers have come to expect is beginning to emerge.

Work at the anchor store of the Outlet Collection of Niagara is proceeding toward an opening celebration of Nov. 19, said general manager Giles Fisher during a tour Thursday.

While there are pockets of construction throughout the 80,000-foot Outpost - a smaller store than the Bass Pro Outdoor World in Vaughan - other areas require only finishing details. Merchandise began arriving about a week ago, two shifts of staff are working from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m stocking shelves, and artists are painting the huge murals that dominate the store and are designed to bring the feel of the outdoors inside.

It's Fisher's third opening in Canada - he was assistant general manager when the Vaughan store opened, and general manager in Calgary. He has moved his family from Calgary to Niagara, close to his roots, and an area he sees as a natural for a store that caters to those who love the outdoors and all the associated activities—hunting, fishing, boating and camping.

Bass Pro also likes working with Ivanhoe Cambridge, the builder of the Glendale mall and Vaughan Mills, the other Ontario location for the outdoor store, he says. Being close to Toronto and a major highway were also attractions, said Fisher.

Massive realistic-looking manufactured logs cover support beams, rustic lodge-like features front display cabinets, animal tracks on the floors provide direction down main aisles, and murals become three-dimensional with the addition of life-like rocks, driftwood and fish and animals preserved through taxidermy creating outdoor dioramas.

The store is divided into sections representing activities, explains Fisher - a boat showroom will occupy one side at the front and borders on a marine accessory area and fishing equipment, the mural on the back wall of that area representing Niagara Falls and the Niagara River.

A giant fresh-water glass aquarium and waterfall, flanked by cement boulders, will be stocked with native fish, including bass, walleye, trout, perch and muskie, says Fisher - some caught in the Niagara River, others imported. The aquarium is the main feature at the end of the centre aisle of the store, which he refers to as the clerestory - an architectural feature that incorporates a raised roof and large windows - and is intended to be a dramatic attraction to draw the focus of customers from the main doors after they take in the rustic two-storey, lodge-like lobby, with a grand stone fireplace as the focal point.

"The main entrance will be something spectacular," said Fisher.

The middle section of the store, he said, will celebrate Canada, the side aisles the Niagara Region.

The hunting and gun section is bordered by another striking mural, this one with mounted white-tail deer completing the tableau - all murals are painted by artists contracted by Bass Pro, who work from their own photographs taken locally, Fisher said.

Each section will offer free workshops and seminars throughout the year, given by local experts for those who want to learn or improve on an outdoor skill.

All 210 sales associates - a little more than half are part-time - and 22 management staff are now working toward the traditional Bass Pro opening celebration, which Fisher refers to as "an evening for conservation."

It will be open to the public, and 50% of sales that evening is donated to a local agency for conservation - the recipient of the proceeds will be announced in early November, he said.

"When we come into a community, we want everyone to know we give back to the community," said Fisher.

From opening until Christmas, the area designated as the boat showroom will be given over to a Santa's Wonderland, with children's Christmas crafts and activities and Santa on hand for photos - that's an annual tradition at all Bass Pro Shops.

Also on hand opening night will be national and local celebrities, including big-name personalities from the fishing world, and special events will continue throughout the weekend, said Fisher.

Bass Pro Shops are expected to have more than 116 million people visiting 85 stores and marine centers across the U.S. and Canada this year. The average time spent at stores is two and a half hours, with customers driving an average distance of more than 50 miles to visit one of the stores.

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