Rock/Creek founders look to next generation of leaders as outdoor retailer expands beyond Chattanooga market
The owners of Rock/Creek Outfitters have sold the company to Uncle Dan's Outfitters, a subsidiary of Camping World Holdings Inc., in a move to expand the company across the southeast.
The 30-year-old Rock/Creek is a pillar of the local outdoor industry, and was one of the first to capitalize on Chattanooga as an outdoor city. The formerly independent specialty outdoor retailer provides gear for sports including kayaking, rock climbing, camping and hiking.
"We'll look to grow pretty quickly," co-owner Chad Wykle said. "Our experience is in the southeast. The Rock/Creek brand certainly resonates in the southeastern United States, so we'll look to grow Rock/Creek's brick and mortar quickly across the region."
The company operates six brick-and-mortar locations in Chattanooga, Cleveland, Tenn., Franklin, Tenn., and a seasonal outpost near Benton, Tenn. Those will all remain open, Wykle said. Current staff and management will also remain in place, and the Rock/Creek experience will remain the same from both a customer and employee standpoint, he added. Rock/Creek will continue its practice of promoting from within and keep local management. Wykle and fellow co-owner Jonathan Scott will remain with the company, but their roles and titles haven't been finalized.
"Our culture remains in place as does our commitment to the community, our commitment to the specialty products that we carry and our buyers' scrutiny over products that we bring in," Wykle said. "We have very experienced buying departments that folks have come to know and love ... None of that changes."
Details of the sale have not been released, and Wykle deferred the question to new ownership, who did not return a message by press time.
Wykle and co-owner Jonathan Scott, long-time employees, acquired Rock/Creek from its founders, Dawson Wheeler and Marvin Webb, in 2017. Since that time, Wheeler and Webb have remained part of the company's strategic leadership team and were fully engaged in the Uncle Dan's acquisition.
"Rock/Creek's strong legacy and team were central to this decision," Wheeler said. "We've always been an opportunistic company, and this transaction provides Rock/Creek with unprecedented growth opportunities at every level. It also allows the current owners to focus on what they love: interacting with staff, customers and the community in a very hands-on way. In short, it benefits everyone and checks all the boxes."
The announcement is another major outdoor acquisition for the nation's largest network of RV-centric retail locations. The company purchased Uncle Dan's in 2017, which acquired Erehwon Mountain Outfitter – a Midwest speciality retailer of outdoor gear and apparel – earlier this year.
"Uncle Dan's, Erehwon and Rock/Creek are wholly aligned both in terms of culture and strategic objectives," said Colin Moynihan, the general manager of Uncle Dan's and Erehwon. "By bringing our like-minded businesses together, we'll find efficiencies in merchandising and back-end infrastructure, so we can focus more fully on serving our existing customers and reaching new markets."
The announcement comes days after fellow Chattanooga outdoor company RootsRated Media announced it is leaving Chattanooga for Atlanta. It is also two weeks before the opening of REI's first Chattanooga location.
"That was not the purpose of this move," Wykle said. "It's an opportunity for us to continue in the community and to continue to grow. We knew [REI] was coming in, but that wasn't a large concern and isn't why we made the decision."