Molly paddling with the late Lady. Molly paddling with the late Lady.

For the next little while, we’ll be profiling the folks who are the backbone of Great Outdoor Provision Co. Though their roles may differ — from outfitting you for adventure, to managing stores, to determining the gear we carry — they share one uniting trait: a love of outdoor adventure. Today: Molly Cherry, Great Outdoor Provision Co.’s Vice President of Retail Support has been with the company for 25 years and one of GOPC’s three-member owner management team.

The key to Molly Cherry’s success as Vice President of Retail Support at Great Outdoor Provision Co.?
After graduating from Westchester Academy in High Point, where she was captain of the women’s soccer team, Molly went on to play for the N.C. State Wolfpack. “I loved every minute of it,” she says. “Sports have definitely played a role in who I am, in helping me keep organized and disciplined, in working as a team. It’s definitely carried over into my work life.”
Molly is responsible for keeping the gears greased and running smoothly at Great Outdoor’s nine stores. She oversees the warehouse and inventory operations, making sure that the gear customers want is always on the shelves. She’s also responsible for seeing that everyone — from vendors, to employees, to the phone company — gets paid.
Despite being an avid soccer player since she was 5, Molly has always found time to explore the outdoors. Growing up, her family camped a lot (“especially in the Asheville area”). With family in Missouri (she was born in Savannah, Mo., before moving to High Point when she was 6), she’s done a lot of canoeing on the Lake of the Ozarks. And because her Dad was an airline pilot (initially for Piedmont Airlines, later for US Airways), the family flew for next to nothing and went to some pretty cool places.
“I love Jackson Hole,” she says of Wyoming’s outdoor adventure playground. “I love the hike up Rendezvous Mountain.”
We caught up with Molly in her domain — Great Outdoors’ basement warehouse in Cameron Village — to learn more about what it takes to keep the operation running.

Q.How long have you been with Great Outdoor Provision, and how did you get started?

I grew up in High Point and was in high school about the time the Great Outdoor Provision store opened in Winston-Salem. I loved it. I loved the products. I always wanted to buy something, even if it was just a sticker. Just going into the store made me want to have an adventure. So when I was looking for something part-time while studying at N.C. State, I went to the Great Outdoor in Cameron Village. Like so many people, I started part-time, in the warehouse. That was in 1998.

Molly holding Annabel, husband Matthew holding William.
Molly holding Annabel, husband Matthew holding William.

Q. Tell us about your journey at Great Outdoor.

After graduating from N.C. State, I moved to New York City and worked for Adidas. It was a nine-month adventure, but when I realized I didn’t make enough money to do the things I wanted, I decided to move back to Raleigh and regroup. So I did, and I ran into Tom (Great Outdoor Provision founder Tom Valone), who asked me to come back. I managed the warehouse, then convinced him I could manage the office, too. I eventually became Vice President of Retail Support, then became a partner four years ago.

Q.  How would you describe what you do at Great Outdoor Provision?

We have a process I like to call the “Circle of Life” at Great Outdoor. Products come in from suppliers through the red freight doors at the back of the store, and my job is to get them back out, to our 9 stores, as quickly as possible. Our inventory control system and our great retail support team help keep this circling turning. We ship once a day to every store.

Q. So nothing stays in the warehouse longer than a few days?

None of our seasonal items, such as short-sleeve sport shirts or fleece jackets. For our “provisional” items — things like water bottles and knives, which we stock year-round, we buy those in bulk so we always have them on hand.

Q. Looking around the warehouse, all of the incoming boxes — and there’s lots of ‘em — are brown and about the same size. Does anything ever get  … misplaced?

Sometimes. But each box has a shipping label, and while they may all look the same, Tammy (Warehouse Manager Tammy Harvey,) can take a quick glance and tell you exactly what’s in each box.

Pausing on a ride in Sun River, Oregon. That's Mt. Hood in the distance.
Pausing on a ride in Sun River, Oregon. That’s Mt. Hood in the distance.

Q.  What are some of the changes you’ve witnessed on your end of the business during your 18 years here?

The basics haven’t changed much in that time. We’ve just become more organized, efficient and have a better inventory control system.

Q. Christmas must be a fun time of year. When does the madness start for you? October?

July 1. Our merchandise managers place all of our Christmas orders a year in advance. The vendors start shipping fall/winter product July 1. We’ll process and ship it and the stores will put it out on the sales floor by mid-July. We don’t expect people to buy a lot of fleece in July or August, but they will begin to see it and come the holidays, hopefully they’ll buy it.

Q. You have to know this Christmas what’s going to sell next Christmas? What if trends change?

Then we’re screwed.

Q. What’s the biggest unknown that affects sales, especially at Christmas?

The weather. If it’s 80 degrees in December, we aren’t going to be selling Patagonia jackets. And if just one weatherman says there’s even a chance of snow, we drop whatever we’re doing down here and start pulling together hats and gloves for the stores.

Q. Are you relieved when Dec. 26 rolls around?

I am if all the warehouse shelves are empty. That means we ordered perfectly, that we don’t have excess inventory on hand, inventory that may not get sold during the slower months at the beginning of the year.

Q. When you aren’t maintaining the Circle of Life here at Great Outdoor Provision, what do you like to do?

Well, right now it’s a little tough. We have a 2-year-old, Annabelle, and a 4-month-old son, William. When we can get out, we like to stand-up paddleboard. We’ll go out on the Neuse down near New Bern, or if we only have a little time on a Saturday, we’ll go to Lake Raleigh and spend an hour. We also like to hike around Asheville. We are big fans of Mount Mitchell and Hot Springs.

I also love to travel! But right now, with the kids …