April 16, 2008

Bass Pro Shops, coming to Manteca in fall, blends sporting goods with atmosphere

When Bass Pro Shops opens its Manteca store this fall, consumers will find more than just fishing gear, camping equipment and outdoor apparel.

The 120,000-square-foot store, which opens Oct. 2, will have an archery range, shooting arcade, fudge shop and aquarium, among other features, said manager Dan Dugger.

Conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited will be able to meet at the store, he said, and there will be regular demonstrations for activities such as fly fishing and cooking.

Bass Pro Shops, based in Missouri, is an anchor tenant for Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley, which is billed as an upscale, open-air "lifestyle" center. Other Promenade anchors are Best Buy, Hampton Inn, J.C. Penney and Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres.

John Nowak, Manteca's deputy city manager, said no additional stores have made public commitments to Promenade Shops, but several are involved in discussions.

The stores that have signed on are already an attraction, Nowak said.

"Bass Pro has a very large draw. It's not unusual for a store like that to bring in over 1 million customers a year," he said.

The store is expected to draw shoppers from as far away as Fresno, Sacramento and the Bay Area, and Nowak said the city estimates Promenade Shops will generate $170 million in taxable sales in its first full year.

Kerasotes and Bass Pro will be the first two businesses to open, he said, with most others operating by early 2009.

Poag & McEwen, Promenade Shops' developer, proposed about a dozen smaller stores in addition to the anchors.

But Nowak stressed that the approved plan for the center was based on square footage rather than number of stores.

Bass Pro's only California store is in Rancho Cucamonga, though the company has announced plans for stores in Sacramento and Bakersfield.

"When you walk into one of these stores, it's like walking into Disneyland," Dugger said.

Each Bass Pro store is tailored for a specific market. In Manteca's case, he said, that means the interior is planned to be evocative of Yosemite National Park.

Craftsmen at Bass Pro's Missouri headquarters will incorporate antiques from the Central Valley into the store's décor, he said. Bass Pro will employ about 250 people.

Bass Pro stores sell hunting, camping and other outdoor gear, along with clothing, archery equipment, golf supplies and even boats.

With the facade looming south of Highway 120 between Main Street and Union Road, Dugger said Bass Pro was situated to be highly visible.

"Bass Pro is a major draw for the builders of this center," Dugger said. "The Bass Pro people are very particular in where they go."

Employees at other Northern San Joaquin Valley outdoor stores said they're not concerned that Bass Pro will swallow their business.

Paul Macke, a buyer for the fishing department at Valley Sporting Goods in Modesto, said his store doesn't try to compete with big-box stores such as Bass Pro.

"We're catering to not only the typical fisherman, but the more specialized fisherman who's looking for high-end items," Macke said. "We've gone the more specialty route."

As he browsed backpacks at Valley Sporting Goods, Randy Russell of Oakdale said he's heard enough about Bass Pro to at least have initial interest in shopping there.

"With something that big, people will check it out to see what it's about," said Russell, 28. If prices are comparable to stores such as Valley Sporting Goods, Russell said, Bass Pro will be strong competition.

Craig Stott, co-owner of the Crescent Work & Outdoor store in Modesto, said his store also attracts different customers than Bass Pro.

"Our clients are the introduc-tory hunting and fishing crowd," Stott said. "We both bring in customers that like toys."

But Crescent customers won't look for as many high-end items as Bass Pro shoppers, he said.

As Promenade Shops is built, a similar but smaller project is taking shape at Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto.

This fall, the Village at Vintage Faire, a 65,000-square-foot open-air project, is set to open in what had been parking between Gottschalks and Sears.

The only confirmed retailer there is BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, but mall officials have said other upscale stores are on board.

Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at or 578-2331.

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