Midwest Mountaineering Closing Doors

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After more than 50 years, iconic Minneapolis paddlesports and outdoors retailer Midwest Mountaineering announced it is closing its doors.

According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, Midwest Mountaineering owner Rod Johnson made the decision after a few years of slackening sales, announcing his plans to close the store in October. The story notes that Johnson has seen sales decline for the past seven years as consumers’ shopping styles have changed, save for during the pandemic year of 2020. But with increased expenses and competition from manufacturers selling direct and such big-box retailers as Scheels, REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods, the margins simply aren’t there anymore.

Midwest Mountaineering
Canoes and kayaks have long been a staple of Midwest Mountaineering’s product mix.

“A lot of our customers are over 50 and were our customers back 40 years ago,” Johnson told the Star Tribune. “We’ve tried a lot to get younger people more into the outdoors, but you’re competing with busy schedules the younger people have and screen time. The online sales is huge.”

The closing marks the end of an era for one of paddlesports’ longest-running paddling stores.

Johnson told his 40 employees, down from a peak of about 100 in the store’s heyday, about his plans on Aug. 23.

As well as holding a going-out-of business sale through Oct. 8, liquidating nearly $2 million of outdoor gear and apparel, he plans to market his four buildings that are home to Midwest Mountaineering to apartment developers. He plans to start a nonprofit focused on people being nice to one another.

Midwest Mountaineering: A Brief History

Midwest Mountaineering started in 1970 when Johnson hitch-hiked to California and came home with a backpack full of climbing gear and sold it all in just seven days. He continued selling miscellaneous gear from his home and the aisles at Minnesota Rovers meetings under the shingle of “The Johnson Company” until moving his business to 1408 Hennepin Ave. in 1971 and officially opened Midwest Mountaineering. Adding tents, cross country skis, whitewater kayaks and bicycles to his line-up, in 1976 he moved his operation to Minneapolis’s West Bank, near the U of M, at 309 Cedar Ave.

In 1981 he added Thrifty Outfitters selling seconds and close-outs upstairs and in 1985 he launched “The Great Minnesota Canoe Event” in a local fairgrounds, drawing such speakers as author Cliff Jacobsen, Verlen Kruger and more. He soon added a “Winterfest” Expo, later hosting both events in big-top tents behind his store.

Throughout it all, he continued sticking with what Midwest Mountaineering did best: offering best possible advice, technical expertise and the best gear and clothing for outdoor adventurers, under the slogans “Ask us, We’ve been there” and “Sharing Passion for the Outdoors.”

 

 

 

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