Bass Pro Shop Is Coming: How Excited Should We Be?

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - The deal is out there, Bass Pro Shop will be locating one of its mega-stores near the intersection of Highway 20 and Interstate 65.  Business leaders in Decatur are excited, and for that matter, so are hunters and fishermen from across north Alabama.

Bass Pro Shop is an all needs store, and almost a tourist attraction. "You can buy hooks and bullets in a lot of places, but none of them look like a store like Bass Pro Shops. You know the official memorandum says we're part amusement park, part museum, part retail store. That's absolutely true," says Eric Alford, manager of the Bass Pro Shop in Prattville.

Prattville is a smaller town than Decatur. It's not on a body of water anywhere near as attractive to fishermen as the Tennessee River.  Prattville is about 150 miles south of Decatur on Interstate 65, and it has had a Bass Pro Shop since 2007.

Downtown Prattville is a sleepy reminder of what the city was like in the middle of the last century.  Don Strength is the owner and operator of the Red Arrow Hardware store in downtown Prattville.  He's been running the store for 43 years.

"When I moved here in 1946, this was Prattville right here. Main Street was Prattville. Look at it and see, it has gone crazy," said Strength.

Strength isn't talking about downtown, but rather the area between where his store is and Interstate 65. The bustling four-lane highway is bordered by dozens of stores, restaurants, gas stations and hotels. Where the road intersects with the interstate, is where you find the Bass Pro Shop.

Thousands of shoppers pass through the store's two-story lobby every week. They see the stuffed Grizzly Bear, and they're welcomed to the store by a greeter.  What they experience is 130,000 square feet of store crammed with anything and everything a hunter, fisherman, or outdoorsman could desire.

"Getting everything I need for hunting season, for fishing season," is why Zac Drunkard says he and his dad regularly drive 50 miles to shop at Bass Pro.  In fact, Bass Pro Shop touts the fact that customers will drive between 50 and 100 miles to shop there.

Bass Pro Shop customers know why they like the store. The question is, how do the people of Prattville, from average joe to business leader, feel about their Bass Pro Shop?

"It's a good deal, but it could have been better," says Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie.

To bring in Bass Pro Shops and a nearby shopping center, the city of Prattville spent more than $13 million for the land and infrastructure improvements.As a city council member, Mayor Bill Gillespie approved the deal.

"I would have had a little more local government involvement," Gillespie said.

The problem is--the part of Prattville where Bass Pro is located is the small part of the city in Elmore County. Because of past disagreements, Elmore County didn't contribute to the deal. Autauga County, where most of Prattville is located, also didn't help.

Back out on the highway, between the shop and downtown, this city of 34,000 appears to be booming. That's also part of the deal.

"The residual effect they're going to be having on the city of Prattville is worth the deal on it," Gillespie said. The mayor cites restaurants, and hotels and gas stations as all directly benefitting.

But what about old downtown Prattville. That's where Don Strength has been running Red Arrow Hardware for 43 years.

"I think its's one of the greatest things that ever happened to the city of Prattville," Strength said. Don says that's the feedback he gets from his customers.

Another positive aspect the outdoor retailer brings to town -- tourists.

"They come in, they spend the night sometimes which helps our lodging tax, which helps the chamber, which helps the community and then they come into our downtown, which is what we want, to come all the way into our beautiful downtown," said Patty Vanderwall, Prattville Chamber of Commerce president.

People in Prattville expect a lot from Bass Pro Shops. Then again, so does a customer we talked to who traveled nearly 50 miles to shop.

"I have all men in my family. They all hunt, they all fish...Bass Pro Shop," said customer Gennela Bedsole.

The store sells itself. The Prattville residents we talked to really believe it's also selling their city.


    • Say What

      Wes, not when the Republicans are giving them the consumer/taxpayer’s money (oh, I mean economic incentive obey) to come here!

  • Michael J. Soroczak

    I will shop at Bass Pro, Cabella’s, Dick’s and Gander Mountain. I have often used Bass Pro as a destination to pick up supplies that other big box stores no longer carry. You know who I am talking about Big Blue with the white W. You I will not shop at. Big Blue almost destroyed Florence.

  • Jay

    I still won’t leave Huntsville to drive to Decatur for that (especially with Gander Mtn and Cabela’s right here, but I’m glad a valley city might pick up some sales from the people off the interstate.

    • Skillpot

      ‘betcha the jobs at Bass-Pro-Shop will be filled from those at the other hunting, and fishing locations, and the end results will not result in the expected outcome!

  • calm_down

    Cabela’s will be the last nail in the coffin for Gander Mtn. Bass Pro will hurt Academy in Decatur tremendously. I would put money on either Bass Pro or Cabala’s ultimately going out of business. The area just cant support two major outdoor stores. Bass Pro will probably be the one to go under, since the good ole boys in decatur run that city like a county fair.

    • Bill

      Don’t hold your breath that this will happen. The end fighting in Decatur among the so called political leadership, could sink this venture again before it gets started.Cabela’s a DONE deal! Bass Pro is still in a holding pattern.

  • hangemhigh

    i love bass pro. they have everything and anything related to the outdoors man’s dream. and great pricing. gm and academy have no reloading supplies, no arrow building components, no traditional archery, when 43/4 of a store is clothing, it can’t be called sporting goods. bass pro will outshine these others. you can spend a whole day there and not get bored. i usually spend about 10 minutes in the others..

  • Nuclear Mike

    With Academy, Gander Mtn. & Dicks barely managing to just keep their doors open and their employees working 25 hour weeks that adding 2 more big box store sporting good “malls” will just drain what is left from the remaining Mom&Pop little stores…just count up all the local WalMarts and then count all the closed little stores in all the strip & enclosed Malls…that ratio tells you what will happen when Cabela’s & Bass Pro Shop dump all their Chinese made goods here.
    Obviously, Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s are in the attack mode.
    While ALL the local politicians took credit for Bass Pro Shop Deactur deal…NONE came forward to take any credit for Cabela’s suddenly announcing their new store…which is a hint as to the shady dealing in the background with Bass Pro Shops.
    May they ALL fail and make room for the return of Mom&Pop’s!!!

  • Juan

    Who Cares!!! Get a Job, and STOP Fishing! Especially YOU LIBS! Liberalism is a Severe form of Mental Illness!

  • JustMe

    Academy didn’t hurt Wiley’s, in fact I think WIley’s has done more business since Academy has been in town.

    • Nuclear Mike

      …that would be a negative as to any increase in Wiley’s revenues since Academy opened…Gander Mtn. did offer to buy both Wiley’s businesses in Huntsville & Decatur to just remove them completely before Gander Mtn. opened.

  • LetTheBuyerBeware

    Every store which opens is more pressure on an already overbuilt retail in North Alabama for sporting goods….overbuilt for sure when Cabela’s comes and Bass Pro attempts to come. Fact: Wiley’s was up in sales 13.1, 13.9 and 13.1 percent the first 3 months Academy opened in Decatur. Academy is formidable, however. What they do, they do well which is out-cheap the product and pay their people minimum wage, 25 hour workweeks and all they can steal. Gander Mountain absolutely did not offer to buy both or either Wiley’s prior to opening, nor was there ever any discussion. NM does not know what he’s talking about; only spreading gossip he may have heard or dreamed.. Gander is a wreck and Huntsville is among their 5 worst performing stores nationally. Their billionaire, persistent, stubborn owner is the main reason they continue to exist despite losses and losses in market share. Academy is kicking Dick’s rear. Dick’s is not set up to compete with Academy and cannot go head to head in the same market. It’s true, Cabela’s will do well in HSV at Gander’s expense and demise. Should Bass Pro open in Decatur, Cabela’s will far outpace Bass Pro’s performance and, at some point, Bass Pro would be closing their store(s) if not for the incredible real estate wealth these cities such as Spanish Fort, Leeds, Prattville & Decatur-in-waiting has bestowed on them…..These taxpayer subsidized millions is what creates any wealth for Bass Pro and what keeps them open. If no one has been in these on a given day, they are empty caverns, incapable of generating the profit to keep themselves open if not for these mayors/city councils bending over for them. BTW, the article is very misleading. Go talk to the hotel operators, strip centers, other retail and support which remains dormant, underperforms or just never came…….or Spanish Fort’s developer who went bankrupt to the tune of 72 million within 5 years. Be careful of what you wish for….there is a major fallout coming in the overbuilt sporting goods sector……

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