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Wild Earth Weathers the Storm Downtown

New outdoors outfitters shop part of class of new stores in redevelopment

About a week ago I shared the news of three new restaurants downtown that closed last month mostly due to lackluster sales.

For the sake of balance, I pointed to many of the successful, enduring businesses downtown that remain — including other stores that had opened around the same time those that closed first turned on the lights.

When I didn't mention his business, and rightfully so, Tim Nightengale at Wild Earth Outfitters contacted me to share the fact that his outdoor outfitter — open less than two years — is doing quite well despite multiple road closures and the other challenges that come with being located at ground zero for construction of Kent's redevelopment.

So I was surprised when he hesitated after I asked for his secret to success.

"I hesitate to say success yet," he said. "We still have a long way to go."

More than half a dozen shops have closed since Kent's redevelopment started with the first phase of Acorn Alley in 2009. As the first tenant in the second phase of Acorn Alley Nightengale has seen quite a few of those businesses come and go.

Smart planning, diverse product offerings and a niche market are some of the reasons why Wild Earth hasn't locked the doors like some of its neighbors.

"We're first and foremost a good footwear shop," Nightengale said.

One of his top sellers? Socks. To wrap those feet you'll find one of the widest varieties of in-stock hiking boots around to try on — Wild Earth's biggest seller.

Nightengale comes from an outdoor gear background, so you'll also find a variety of hiking and outdoor-adventure related equipment.

Perhaps a surprising seller at Wild Earth are the store's kayaks.

"We don't try to narrow down our focus too much," Nightengale said.

That's an understatement. In-stock you'll find a premier whitewater kayak from Liquid Logic and a variety of slower-paced fishing kayaks. Either boat could help you find some entertainment just a few blocks away on the Cuyahoga River.

Nightengale conceded that, like any other business, there have been challenges to opening a new shop.

But the other obvious key to his success is that he has a vision for his store and understands the long-term vision for downtown Kent.

Nightengale points to the fact the new Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center will open in June and bring with it a continual flow of foot traffic to the neighborhood. And the new 32 apartments planned in Fairmount Properties Building C will bring even more potential customers along with the opening of the new transit center and Acorn Corner once both open.

Sales at Wild Earth have grown month-over-month since September 2012. And Nightengale suspects that he'll have even more business in the coming months to keep him and his four employees busy.

"We're on the right track overall," he said.

Heather Malarcik April 01, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Excellent service and attitude go a long, long way... particularly in our town, where the people make it what it is. Kudos to Tim and his staff for planning, marketing, forecasting, strategizing, and smiling with the vision in mind at all times -- what all businesses should do!
Shannon April 01, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Here's an idea: instead of taking swipes at people that have failed, present the real facts. What contributed to the so called "weathering of the storm" with this business? Was there a lease revision? Rent abatement? How many loans did it take to still be able to put a key in the door? When does the owner think he will break even on his initial investment? Or does that course of thought, not fit in with the feel good narrative? The business owner had to contact someone to tell his tale. That in itself, speaks volumes. Put in a Gander Mountain or a Dick's down the block tomorrow, and this guy is closing #7 by week's end.
Matt Fredmonsky April 01, 2013 at 08:35 PM
A comment was removed for violating Patch's terms of use. http://kent.patch.com/terms
CheesyMacandCheese April 02, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Shannon/ RD/ Chowda Head Rumor has it that the owner has some secret investors ( foreigners I hear). They are secretly funneling him cash from some crazy telemarketing scheme he cooked up with some old high school buddies who are way into the internet and stuff. I've been poking around there a lot and I agree with you.. The whole things smells rotten to me. I think the popcorn lady might be in on it too. She seems real shady with her caramel and her peanuts and all that butter. I saw a pallet of butter get delivered there last week and there is no way she's making all that popcorn by herself. We need to get immigration over there and put a stop to this right away. Let's not even get started on the "Multi Modal"/ Parking Deck. My sources say that they never plan to actually open the thing for parking at all. Ever since the secret underground compound at Greenbrier was unearthed the men in black helicopters have been looking for a new hide out. I've seen a lot of trucks going in and out of there that look like cement trucks but I have my doubts. What the heck is a Multi Modal anyway?? Sounds like somewhere big city people would park there fancy cars while shopping at "boutique" stores and dining at exotic gourmet pizza places.(probably from California). I also have my suspicions about Mr. Burbick too, he's in on the whole conspiracy, some kind of wizard or alien possibly.
FillerUp April 03, 2013 at 08:44 PM
I'm guessing if/when he moves out he won't get a disorderly comment ticket though. How you treat customers and employees goes a long way to success in this community

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