Greenville Shop Manager Lindsey Barr Finds Recreational Bliss Wherever She Goes
When Lindsey Barr, manager of our Greenville store, turned 11, she wanted the kind of birthday party every pre-teen girl wanted, right?
A party at the local climbing gym!
OK, maybe Lindsey was a little different, thanks to an outdoorsy family and an active Girl Scout troop, both of which were big into hiking and camping. Growing up in the Triad, in Lewisville, at the doorstep to the Blue Ridge Mountains, was another plus in shaping her love of the outdoors.
Alas, after graduating from N.C. State University (where she worked in the school’s Outdoor Adventures program) with an engineering degree, then continuing on to grad school while working for NASA, she was forced to enter the grown-up world. For a short time, at least.
“By all conventional wisdom, everything was going as planned,” says Lindsey. “But I was miserable. I thought back to the last time I was truly happy working, and realized it was with Outdoor Adventures. So I quit my job, moved back in with my parents, and applied to work at Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Greensboro. And I never looked back.”
Fortunately, Lindsey agreed to look back just a little to give us a sense of how an aspiring rocket scientist changes trajectory and winds up following her true course.
Q. You were outdoorsy as a kid, but when did your passion really kick in?
My senior year of high school I joined my local Venturing Crew — it’s a coed affiliate of the Boy Scouts that not too many people know about — and went on my first backpacking trip, to Mount Rogers in Virginia. It was a memorable trip: the weather was miserable and we faced multiple gear challenges. Still, about a week after we got back, I had a “lightbulb” moment: I found myself trying to figure out when I could go backpacking again. Working for N.C. State’s Outdoor Adventures program I was able to participate in a huge range of outdoor activities. I found that I had a true passion for the outdoors; especially for helping women feel more comfortable in outdoor recreation.
Q. How long have you been at Great Outdoor Provision Co. How did this journey begin?
I left my engineering job and came to work for Great Outdoor Provision Co. in August 2012, so it’s been almost 5 years! I was really lucky to have a supportive family that stood behind my crazy idea, and for Rob Arends, my store manager in Greensboro, to give me a shot!
In the spring of 2013, I left Greensboro to work as a Canopy Guide and Team Development Facilitator at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. I was able to draw on my previous experience as a guide and hone my outdoor leadership skills. When I re-joined the team at GOPC that fall (this time in Charlotte), I did so as a much more confident and knowledgeable sales associate. Then, a little more than a year later, in June 2014, I became the store manager in Greenville.
Q. You became a store manager at a young age. How was the transition from Charlotte to Greenville?
That transition was definitely a challenge!
The geographic transition alone was daunting. I am a mountain girl. In Charlotte, I could hit a mountain for hiking or climbing in about an hour’s drive. In Greenville, I’ve had to learn to get creative with my outdoor recreation. I spend a lot more time paddling here, and those trips to the mountains have become more treasured. I grew up in a small town, so the small town atmosphere of Greenville feels a lot more like home than the metropolitan area of Charlotte.
I also faced a big change in responsibilities. Suddenly, everyone was looking to me for guidance and answers. I had a great mentor and I had worked under two fantastic managers, Rob in Greensboro and Rudy Hayden in Charlotte. And, I felt like I had the support of everyone at GOPC. So on the days that I was struggling (whether it was with our computer system, a piece of gear, or with personnel challenges), I had someone I could call to work through the challenges. Having that support network was key!
Q. What do you think would surprise people most to learn about Greenville as an outdoors destination?
I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn just how much there is to do in this region! Everyone thinks of mountains as go-to destinations for outdoor recreation. But Down East, we have some of the most beautiful and unique paddle trails I’ve ever seen. Within about a 2 hour drive, I can be somewhere to hike, mountain bike, backpack, car camp, paddle, trail run — you name it! And most of the areas around here don’t get crowded like so many of the popular mountain destinations.
Q. You personally lead a lot of your GetExploring! Greenville adventures. What in particular do you like about being so hands-on?
What led me to Great Outdoor Provision Co, and has kept me here for the last 5 years, is my passion for the outdoors and my desire to share that passion with other people. I want other people to develop the same love for our natural world that I have. GetExploring Greenville is one way I can do that. Many of the folks who attend our events are beginners. I really enjoy being able to facilitate a positive experience, and see those “lightbulb” moments that get people hooked!
Q. Got an epic trip you’d like to share?
The first one that comes to mind is my float trip on the Upper James River in Virginia earlier this summer. My husband and I went with nine other people for four days, from Glen Wilton to Alpine. It was my longest river trip so far, and we got to use a lot of new gear and techniques. It was the inaugural trip for our lacing, float bags, and waterproof gear barrels, and the first time we had to hand line our canoe through a rapid. Plus, I paddled my first Class II rapid! We saw a total of 60 Class I – II rapids. It sounded daunting going into the trip, but I had so much fun I want to try paddling larger rapids now. The weather was perfect the entire time, and the group we went with was a ton of fun! It’s definitely a trip we’ll be taking again.
Q. What are some of the changes you’ve seen during your tenure with GOPC, in terms of equipment and customers, especially?
In the last few years, there has been a major push industrywide to get more women active in the outdoors. I’ve seen this in my customers and in the gear we are receiving. I have more women coming in looking for gear. And we are receiving more gear and technical clothing designed specifically for women. It’s exciting to see how far the industry has come, even in just the last few years!
Q. What’s your favorite piece of gear right now?
Definitely my canoe! My husband and I purchased a Mad River Explorer a couple of years ago, and we’ve slowly been building to longer trips. Canoeing is a little old school, but we can take plenty of camping gear and water (which is especially handy here at the coast), and even our pup!
Q. Any good customer stories you’d like to share?
This spring, I volunteered with Trailblaze Challenge, which trains people to hike about 25 miles in a day, as a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. One of my Trailblaze participants became a regular customer. She went from hiking occasionally, to hiking every week, to completing a 25-mile hike in a single day. Now, she is looking into gear to start taking her family camping. I have had so much fun watching her progress, and I love to see her having so much fun outside that she wants to get her family involved, too!
Q. What do you love most about your job?
The people, for sure! Most of the time, I get to see people when they’re having a great day. They’re buying a new kayak, or planning a camping trip, or gearing up for travel abroad. I enjoy being able to hear about their upcoming adventures, and find the exact right item for them. And I enjoy hearing about their adventures when they get back.
I also love our company culture. We work hard and play hard. I am encouraged to take time off to play in the outdoors. Great Outdoor understands that the more I use the gear we sell, the more knowledgeable I am when talking to our customers. They also recognize that we are all in this business because we have a passion for the outdoors. We need plenty of Vitamin D and time outside to be the best we can be in the shop.