From the outside, Public Lands looks like a gorgeous new retail store dedicated to outdoor experiences. And indeed, it is that. But it is also so much more.
The new store located in Cranberry Township is Dick’s Sporting Goods’ latest concept with a mission to “celebrate and protect public lands for all.” And they do that in a variety of ways.
“There are many stores doing good work, and we wanted to be very clear from the beginning on how we were going to show up and do advocacy work and be there for all,” said Amber Rollo, general manager.
That advocacy work involves everything from selecting guides (as the sales staff is called) that has a variety of experience and community connections, to partnering with local and national nonprofits dedicated to the outdoors, to selecting brands that have their own dedication to the outdoors and access for all.
Dick’s selected Cranberry as the location of the new store for a variety of reasons. First, they had the actual retail store from their former Field & Stream location. “When we converted the store, we were able to use 80 percent of the fixtures so we kept more out of landfills,” Rollo said.
The proximity to their headquarters in Coraopolis was also key. “This is a test-and-learn phase, so being close to headquarters is a plus to build on what is working and what isn’t,” she added. Another location will hold its grand opening in early November in Columbus.
The guides aren’t all outdoor experts, something that was important, Rollo said. While there will be those with specialty roles such as master technicians for bike and snow services and climbing experts, Dick’s was more concerned with having guides who are “outdoor curious.”
“Our guides are so important because they know the areas where folks recreate and who they are. They are the tentacles that are out in the community in our quest to understand what the needs of the community are,” said Rollo.
Partnerships with local nonprofits dedicated to outdoor space are also vital to Public Lands. It is partnering with Venture Outdoors and Allegheny Land Trust, along with several national nonprofits, as well as working with several smaller nonprofits.
Before the store even opened, the Public Lands staff was volunteering for three major projects: one working at North Park, one with the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy and one with Hollow Oak Land Trust. The work included trail maintenance and remediation, clearing drainage, litter pickup and even assisting with creating a new trail system.
“That was hard work,” Rollo joked about breaking new trails. “We had 240 hours of service work in before we even opened the doors.”
The Community Hub in the store will allow nonprofits to offer workshops and presentations to create awareness about their missions and to offer advice.
The local market area is another way Public Lands is committed to the region. Over 15 local vendors sell teas, biscotti, coffee, honey, syrups and more at the store.
“We have a long list of local vendors who want to be featured that we will rotate through,” Rollo said. The work of local artists is featured on some of the in-store visuals.
Public Lands also has a financial commitment to the region with 1 percent of sales donated to the Public Lands Fund to support protection and access to public lands and outdoor spaces.
As far as that beautiful retail space, Public Lands has a 50,000 sq. ft. interior dedicated to products for hiking, climbing, camping, running, skiing, cycling, fishing, paddling, urban exploration and work-inspired gear, all at various price points. There is also a service area where bikes and skis can be fixed, as well as rental equipment.
“The rentals allow folks to try something out without a huge commitment and investment,” Rollo said.
Even the brand selection is important, with consideration given to those who have also committed to outdoor access such as Patagonia and The North Face.
A fun key feature of the store is the 30-foot immersive climbing wall. “We want families to come in and give it a try as well as provide an engaging space for folks to bring in groups,” Rollo said.
In keeping with the mission “to provide products and experiences to any and all explorers in an effort to grow the number of people who love and seek to protect our public lands,” Dick’s and the new Public Lands location are interested in reaching more local nonprofits and groups.
“We are constantly looking for opportunities and new ways to connect to our local areas,” Rollo said.
Public Lands is located at 1000 Cranberry Square Drive. For more information, visit www.publiclands.com.