- From the Vault: Tom’s 1972 ‘Sierra Parka’
- Climbing Linville Gorge w/ Royal Robbins 1974
- Life as a GOPC kid – Some “Personal” Notes by T. Fielder Valone
Great Outdoor Provision Co.’s roots as a business go back to 1972. They go back much further if I waxed ‘Southern’ and talked about how the outdoors influenced my life. But as a business, it goes back to ’72. One hundred twenty square feet in the back of a bicycle shop in Carrboro, NC, a stack of Svea 123′s, a rounder of Mountain House freezedried ice cream and Turkey Tetrizzini, and a broken size run of Pivetta Muir Trail boots. Several risky moves later (“you shore goin’ to loose your shirt, boy”) and there was almost 1000 sq feet of space, three of us partners, and merchandise that was managed by optimistic purchase orders and wild, cash generating sales in alternating patterns. It sure was fun, with lots of interesting customers going on far out trips, really cool gear, and Christmas every morning when the UPS man brought us new inventory. We even had a backup diet of gourmet freeze-dried food when cash was scarce. The outdoor outfitting life was good.
There were always trips to take and gear to test. My passions were rock climbing, backpacking, canoe camping and fly fishing, while partner J, who hated underwear and rigid schedules, loved rock climbing and hanging out playing his guitar. Partner B just liked trips, which he took way too often. The out of store outing time got the better of old B’s productivity, and we had to buy him out, and that loathing of schedules led J and me to part ways. They were great first partners; I learned a lot and didn’t really get hurt.
I was always technically oriented, so much so that at first I refused to sell t-shirts because they had no technical value. While I came to the realization that t-shirts and other sportswear were fun, and therefore OK, I’ve never quit working on product pyramids that reflected the ‘best of the best,’ down to ‘good,’ and on down to ‘good enough.’ Gear had to at least be good enough to get my customers by in the wild, or I didn’t sell it. Still don’t. Never will.
I am always looking for something new to make my journeys, and yours, into the outdoors more comfortable. Titanium stoves, graphite fiber paddles, clothing systems that weigh a fraction of what was acceptable in 1972, wicking underwear, selectively padded socks, SPF rated clothing for our intense sun, comfortable backpacks that move with the hiker and sleeping pads that smooth over rough ground. The gear has to be good enough for me, and I guarantee it will make you happy or I’ll buy it back.
A lot has changed in the past 36 years, and some things are the same. I have 7 stores across North Carolina totaling more than 65,000 square feet. I have over 125 people working to move product through the system, and who are committed to making you happy. But you see, they all love the outdoors as much as I do, and relish the interactions with interesting customers going on far out trips, the really cool clothing and gear. And Christmas still comes to the Provision Co. every morning when the UPS man brings the new gear the buyers found at market and we tested for quality on our own trips. I hope you’ll come by and give us a chance to make you happy.
Great Brands • Great Selection • Great Folks
- Tom Valone, Founder Great Outdoor Provision Co.