It seemed almost too good to be true that Bass Pro, and then Cabela’s – two retail heavyweights in outdoor equipment and supplies – would announce new stores here within a day of each other, which they did July 24 and 25.
As it turns out, it was too good to be true.
Bass Pro Shops apparently told Columbia County authorities on Friday – and after sleeping on it a few days, Columbia County officials told the public on Tuesday – that Bass would indeed not be building and
manning a 50,000-square-foot outpost near I-20 and Flowing Wells Road.
Apparently Bass has looked at it and determined that Augusta isn’t big enough for the both of them. The day after Bass announced its planned store July 24, Cabela’s unveiled its plans for a 42,000-square-foot outlet near Costco at the Village at Riverwatch commercial development – where Bass had originally intended to locate before the 2008 economic collapse.
Essentially, Cabela’s beat Bass Pro to its own fishing hole.
The latest news means more than 200 jobs that won’t be coming here, as well as untold tax revenues from the famously well-attended store.
Still, it’s disappointing as well to hear of Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross’ response to the news:
“Bass Pro Shops is afraid of Cabela’s and won’t be coming to Columbia County,” Cross said. “A contract was signed, but they decided it wasn’t in their interest to proceed with it. I think we have learned they are not really honorable people.”
Really? It’s dishonorable for a business to adjust to shifting conditions?
Actually, it happens all the time, and thank goodness for that. Businesses need the ability to keep their ear to the ground, to change directions and to protect their best interests. That’s how they stay in business. That’s how they create and maintain jobs. That’s how they earn the money to pay taxes to fine folks such as Chairman Cross.
We think that was his abject disappointment speaking, and not him.
The greater Augusta area, led by Columbia County, is growing by the day. The time may not be far off when it becomes obvious this town is big enough for both retailers after all.
If so, they will be more than welcome.
In the meantime, we have no doubt leaders such as Chairman Cross will keep creating the conditions that are both conducive to growth and attractive to the best retailers on the planet.
And going forward, Augusta has the opportunity to prove that it’s a great fit for outdoor outfitters.