Gearhead grows by building customer relationships

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,618 views 

Gearhead Outfitters
2023 Northeast Arkansas Outstanding Business of the Year
Small Business award

Amanda Herget had just finished the fall semester teaching in the fifth grade when she and a friend decided to go Christmas shopping. The duo visited Gearhead Outfitters, an outdoor gear and apparel store in Jonesboro on Dec. 23, 2001. During this visit, she met the owner and founder of the business, Ted Herget.

Four days later, the two went on a date. Two years later, they were married and now have two children. The couple has also expanded their business from one small store to 19 in six states, Amanda told Talk Business & Politics.

“We never dreamed of like opening 50 stores,” she said. “We only planned on keeping the one store open. We’ve had a lot of employees who have stayed with us through the years. Honestly, all of this blows our minds.”

The process that led them to own and operate those stores in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, and Illinois was slow to start, but the expansion picked up steam during the last decade.

Before the couple got married, Ted bought a building in downtown Jonesboro and moved his business there in 2002. Amanda continued to teach, but when their son was born, she took maternity leave. She didn’t want to leave her young son and took extended time off.

Ted encouraged her to come work in the store. He needed someone who had the skills to buy and sell women’s apparel. One thing they learned early on is people only buy outdoor gear like tents every so often, but apparel such as shoes sell at a much higher volume, she said.

Amanda decided to leave teaching and help run the store. Things were going fairly well when one of their employees, Heath Gammill, encouraged them to open a second store in the soon-to-open Turtle Creek Mall in March 2006. They hesitated, but Gammill was persistent, Amanda said. Gammill managed the store with her help, and it proved to be successful, she said.

In 2011, the couple expanded into the Little Rock market. It began a trend of them opening about one store per year, she said. The Hergets decided in 2019 to acquire 13 stores from Camping World. The stores were under the names of Rock Creek Outfitters and Uncle Dan’s Outdoor Store.

Expansion came to an abrupt stop in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The company went from an employee base of about 200 to 24, Amanda said. They had to shutter five stores. Starting in 2022, the company started to rebound. In August, they opened a store in Kansas City and in November the company was slated to re-open the store at Promenade at Chenal Shopping Center in Little Rock.

Amanda and Ted have been able to regrow their employee base and it has 192 workers, she said. Roughly half of their administrative employees are female and it’s a point of pride for them.

The goal is to continue to open five stores in the next five years and to continue to expand after that, she said. The couple recently looked at locations in Oklahoma City, another place in Kansas City and several places in Colorado.

Any similarities between being a teacher and building a business?

“Teaching is about building relationships with your students. Customer service is critical to what we do. Building relationships with your customers is a key to success,” Amanda said.