Editor's note: For additional video clips of the Cabela's employee appreciation day Tuesday in Wheeling, including video of the $25,000 gift card winner, click the links under the Article Links section at right, below the video.
TRIADELPHIA - When Tommy Millner attended the grand opening for The Highlands' Cabela's in 2004, the outdoor retailer was the only store on the hilltop.
Nearly seven years later, Cabela Drive leads to Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Target, Kohl's, Marquee Cinemas and a host of other businesses.
"I knew that this store was going to be special," said Millner, chief executive officer of Cabela's Inc. "All of the development around us provides an example of how a public-private venture has worked well for everyone."
Millner and Cabela's co-founder Jim Cabela were among the company leaders on hand Tuesday to celebrate the store's selection as the "Customer Service Store of the Year" in the Cabela's chain of 31 retail outlets for 2010.
The store's employees - numbering about 290 - were treated to a ribs and chicken barbecue, with several workers taking home thousands of dollars worth of door prizes.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Jim Cabela, co-founder of Cabela’s, right, congratulates Tom Sole, a full-time employee at The Highlands Cabela’s location, during the store’s employee appreciation
celebration Monday. Sole won a $25,000 gift card to the store.
Tom Sole, an employee of the firearms department, took home a $25,000 gift card that he can spend at the store.
Millner first visited the store in 2004 while serving as president of Remington Arms Co. Inc., a leading producer of hunting rifles, shotgun models, handguns and ammunition.
He has now served as CEO at Cabela's for two years.
"I knew the people of this area would support Cabela's, and I knew they were consistent with Cabela's values," he said of the store's customers and employees. "Our people make us successful, and this award symbolizes that."
This particular award, according to Millner, is based on a variety of factors, including customer experience and customer interactions with employees.
"These employees really earned this," he added. "There is great competition to win these awards, and these employees deserve this celebration."
Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart was also on hand for the celebration. Stewart said the presence of Cabela's made attracting new retailers much easier.
"You always have to start with a great anchor," he added of Cabela's.
"When they came in, they fell in love with the area. And when you have a product as good as they have, it is an easy sell," Ohio County Commissioner and Development Authority board member Tim McCormick noted. "From the co-founder on down to the cashiers, they are being rewarded for a job well done today."
Joe Neary, general manager of The Highlands' Cabela's, said the store also took home the company's award for "Merchandising Store of the Year."
"During my entire retail career, this is one of my proudest moments," he said. "I accepted this award in February in front of my peers. It just goes to show how dedicated our employees are."
Neary added that the growth at The Highlands is based on the customer base from which Cabela's draws.
According to the company's website, Cabela's is "the World's Foremost Outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear."
The company began in 1961 when Dick Cabela, Jim's brother, came up with a plan to sell fishing flies he purchased while at a furniture show in Chicago.
"We are the largest retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and general outdoor products," said Millner. "If you are looking to do something outdoors, this is the place to come."