In mid-August, the Arkansas-based specialty outdoor retailer Gearhead Outfitters acquired Rock/Creek. Additionally, it acquired Uncle Dan's Outdoor Store, a sister company of Rock/Creek.
Founded in the late 1990s by Ted Herget, Gearhead now operates 10 storefronts across the Midsouth. Its origin story, however, is as humble as they come.
The company was founded in the late 1990s by Ted Herget, who, just like Rock/Creek's founders, wanted to serve his community by enabling residents to get outside as easily and often as possible. After spending a year in Colorado during a hiatus from college, Herget couldn't shake the idea of bringing the mountain lifestyle back to the delta and his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas
"There's just a feeling you get when you're out West. It's the people — they spend so much time outside that their attitudes are just different," Herget says. "Bringing that mindset to rural Arkansas was a tough task."
He first started selling bike equipment and racks out of a friend's living room before moving into his first tiny storefront in downtown Jonesboro. The little business began to grow, and Herget reveled in the ability to help his community embrace the outdoor opportunities outside their doors.
"Exploring where you are, helping people discover the delta, and taking trips into our backyard has been pretty cool," he says of the early days of Gearhead. "Once you start to see people transform and get inspired to be outside, you know you're doing it right and you double down."
Over the next two decades, Gearhead expanded across the region, and Herget attributes that success to a hardworking team of adventure-lovers who work in the shops every day.
"My success is that I've hired people better than me. They tell me to just get out of the way," he jokes. "Ultimately we're in the people business. The products we sell, you can find anywhere. But it's the relationships that are so important."
That investment in people and outdoor culture is how Herget knew that Rock/Creek and Uncle Dan's would make perfect additions to the Gearhead family. After visiting the stores, seeing the products and meeting the teams, Herget says he saw an opportunity to come together and make a big impact in the changing outdoor industry.Herget and his team's dedication to the community led him to create Gearhead Gives, a nonprofit arm of Gearhead Outfitters that works closely with organizations like the Humane Society to help them raise funds through partnered events like pint nights and trail races.
Gearhead's flagship outdoor event in Jonesboro, the Endurance Challenge, is a non-competitive trail run that's designed to introduce people to long-distance running by changing the approach. The 12-hour race follows a 2.5-mile loop around a lake, with a new lap beginning every half hour. You can't go ahead, and if you finish after the half hour, you can simply wait for the next lap and jump back in.
Herget came up with the idea for the Endurance Challenge based on the running program that he and his wife Amanda developed called Project90. The program, which is available for online purchase, is inspired by a training philosophy that Herget, a seasoned ultrarunner, has followed for years to prevent injury and promote good form. Traditionally, runners begin the 90-day program in July, culminating with the Endurance Challenge in October.
Each year, participants in the Endurance Challenge are able to run more miles than they initially thought possible, and Herget believes it's an approachable way to introduce people to longer distances and even ultramarathons.
Project90, the Endurance Challenge and Gearhead Gives all trace back to Herget's mission to build community, serve customers and help people find their way to a healthy, active life in the outdoors.
"Your job is to help guide people to make the right decision. Sometimes it's successful, sometimes it's not. You just help people," Herget says of his work at Gearhead. "If you support the community, the community will support you."
Hear more from Ted Herget about Gearhead Outfitters on last week's episode of Day Fire Podcast, "The Gift of Adventure."