TRIADELPHIA - On Aug. 12, 2004, Mike Boldrick, Jim Beckett, Joe Hays and Alan Heldreth joined hundreds of other eager employees for their first day at Cabela's new showroom in Triadelphia, at the development then known as the Fort Henry Business and Industrial Center along Interstate 70 in Ohio County.
Ten years later, Boldrick, Beckett, Hays and Heldreth are among the 70 original Cabela's employees still on the job at what is now known as The Highlands, a development featuring more than 60 businesses that has helped reshape Ohio County's image.
The origin of Ohio County's retail resurgence started with Cabela's, billed as the "World's Foremost Outfitter."
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Cabela's is celebrating 10 years at The Highlands.
The business promised to bring something new to Ohio County and it did, with the local store serving as one of the company's top producers each year.
The store's success can be attributed to any one of a number of things: inventory, stuffed animals, a huge fish tank.
But for Boldrick, the local store's manager at its opening, it primarily comes back to the employees.
"We have 70 outfitters who have been with us since we opened. Our people working in guns, archery, fishing - those are their passions," said Boldrick, who now serves as Cabela's Appalachian district manager.
And that passion is shared by many, as the store is busy every day of the week.
"This is a playground for adults," Boldrick said of the 175,000-square-foot store that now employs about 300. "Our average customer spends about three hours in here."
Combined with the Cabela's distribution center at The Highlands, Boldrick said the company regularly employs about 1,400 workers in Ohio County.
"The distribution center has about 1,100 employees," Boldrick said. "It is now more than 1 million square feet."
Boldrick said 50 percent of the Triadelphia showroom's customers travel at least 100 miles to reach the destination retailer. He said the convenient location along I-70 in an area filled with outdoor enthusiasts seemed like a logical move for the Sydney, Neb.-based retailer.
The Highlands' store was Cabela's 10th. There now are 58 Cabela's showrooms, including ones near Charleston, W.Va., and Columbus, Ohio.
Boldrick said the Columbus store opened in March 2013, while the Charleston store opened in August 2012.
"Those stores are only 80,000 square feet, so they are less than half the size of this one," Boldrick said. "Even with the opening of Charleston and Columbus stores, we did not see an effect on sales here."
Randy Wharton, who serves as both Ohio County commissioner and president of the Ohio County Development Authority, said he and other county officials visited the Cabela's store in Dundee, Mich., in an effort to attract the retailer to West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.
"When we visited that store, it seemed unbelievable to think they would come to our county," he said. "With the clout of the state of West Virginia, we worked very hard to get them here."
Boldrick said he appreciates the efforts of county officials such as Wharton and Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart.
"It has been fantastic to work with them. The expansion of The Highlands over the last 10 years is amazing," he said. "The idea of having Cabela's be the anchor to this major retail destination has really worked out well."
Boldrick also said being in the heart of the Marcellus and Utica shale boom has helped business, noting that many of the oil and natural gas industry workers enjoy the outdoors.
"They are good customers," he said.
Pittsburgh resident Andrew Rich said he prefers camping to hunting, but enjoys the variety and selection Cabela's offers.
"This is a great place to check out," he said.
Bethesda resident Kathy Wallace said she and her husband have been regular Cabela's customers since before the store even opened, as they ordered from the catalog prior to purchasing in person.
"I have bought quilts and home furnishings here. It is just a great store," she said.
Cabela's employee Cynthia Meager said she was preparing for her freshman year of high school when the store opened Aug. 12, 2004.
"Ten years goes by pretty fast," she said. "The Wheeling area is so luck to have a store like this."
Current Commissioner Orphy Klempa, a longtime co-coordinator of Project BEST who along with Tom Cera introduced county commissioners to the property's former owners, John Nicolozakes and Quinn Ford, said Cabela's is a point of pride for the county.
"After the demise of downtown Wheeling as a shopping destination - and before The Highlands - you had to leave Ohio County to do most of your retail shopping. This has been enormous. It has brought retail back to our county," Klempa said.