|Bass Pro Shops Flagship store entrance in Springfield, Missouri|
A chance to visit media friends in June at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri proved to be the catalyst for learning more about the sporting goods store with a focus on the outdoors and conservation. The Springfield Bass Pro Shops store is the original retail location opened in 1981 and proudly remains their flagship store dubbed the Granddaddy of all Outdoor Stores. This location has become a tourist destination for the Midwest and attracts about four million visitors annually to view the boats, wildlife taxidermy, guns and fish tanks.
My visit began at the corporate home base for Bass Pro Shops, which is an entirely different location capable of handling the business concerning all of the Bass Pro chain stores. I found their headquarters to be a friendly place with the same commitment to wildlife taxidermy and a respect for the outdoors that can be found at retail locations. A large black cloud and a downpour of rain initiated me into the wild world of weather that can be found in Missouri but I was made to feel welcome to wait out the storm, including a bite of lunch in the corporate cafeteria.
Speaking with store manager Aaron Schroeter he told me that they have seven over-sized fish aquariums in the store, and several locations where customers can make a photo souvenir, including with a bronze whitetail sculpture that is 20-feet tall. Conservation exhibits include the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and the Archery Hall of Fame. Currently there is one Bass Pro store in South Carolina at Myrtle Beach, but two new stores are planned for 2015 in North Charleston and in Greenville.
I first met Johnny Morris in 2012 when he visited Hilton Head to receive a conservation award from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which includes SCDNR. Morris has the ability to hunt and fish all the time now, but he still takes time to give back by supporting conservation groups like AFWA. More currently Morris has helped raise awareness for the need of saltwater regulatory reform in D.C. by working with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Also, Morris was recently appointed to the Board of Wetlands America Trust, the land conservation arm of Ducks Unlimited.
My visit to the Springfield store helped to reveal that Bass Pro Shops is a leader not only in retail, but also in a commitment to portray our outdoor heritage in a positive light. Saltwater fishing is how I forged such a strong connection to the outdoors, and a similar love of fishing helped Morris to forge the beginnings of Bass Pro Shops. Simple things like bait and tackle will always help anglers and sportsmen connect to nature, which is an important step along the outdoors trail and towards the conservation of our natural resources.
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