Web boosts Rock/Creek into expansion

Rock/Creek is growing the footprint of its paddling store and its distribution center in a key expansion for the Chattanooga-based outdoor retailer.

The business has leased 35,000 square feet at 1530 Riverside Drive, said Jeff Bartlett, the company's marketing coordinator. Plans are to double the size of its paddling store to 8,000 square feet and move it from its North Shore location on River Street, he said.

The expanded paddling center, to open Oct. 1, will hold a larger collection of whitewater and flatwater kayaks, canoes and accessories, Bartlett said.

Also, Rock/Creek will become the region's largest dealer of stand-up paddleboards, he said.

Sara Horne, Rock/Creek's paddlesports manager, said that having the boating store at the same site of its distribution center means not having to transfer items back and forth between facilities.

"We're excited about the store upgrade and looking forward to working with customers to quickly place them in the right boat with the right gear, all in one easy visit," she said.

Chad Wamack of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp. said Rock/Creek is in the process of getting into the new site, which he called "an ideal location for the distribution center and the exposure needed" for the paddling store.

"They're building out some space to incorporate the store," said Wamack.

The new Riverside Drive location nearly doubles warehouse space while providing more room for Rock/Creek's Internet sales, which account for about 50 percent of company revenues, officials said.

Internet Retailer put Rock/Creek's online sales in 2010 at $8.64 million, up 5 percent from the previous year. IR placed the company at No. 593 on its list of business-to-consumer retailers.

Rock/Creek ecommerce director Mark McKnight said the company redesigned its website in February.

"We continue to invest in this growing channel," he said.

Bartlett said Rock/Creek plans to hire an additional person for rockcreek.com operations.

In terms of bricks and mortar, Rock/Creek continues to have its flagship Manufacturers Road store, another adjacent to Hamilton Place mall and an Ocoee facility during rafting season.

Bartlett declined to cite how much the company is plowing into its new operations, but said "certainly we are investing heavily in our future and continued growth."

Rock/Creek officials said they're working with the Tennessee River Gorge Trust to bring back the Kayak for Conservation paddling fundraiser, which will mark the new store's grand opening celebration.