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Rusted Moon Outfitters, Broad Ripple, Ind., is the most recent addition to Grassroots Outdoor Alliance’s group of independent outdoor retailers, who operate more than 120 independent specialty outdoor stores throughout North America. Founded in 2002 by Henry Miller, Rusted Moon Outfitters operates from a single storefront along a recreational rail-to-trail conversion in a village-type community in North-central Indianapolis.

To mark the occasion of Rusted Moon’s partnership with Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, general manager Ron Lewis chatted with us about the alliance and why he believes the organization is important to both independent outdoor retailers and to the industry as a whole.

How did you discover Grassroots Outdoor Alliance?

Initially, a couple of sales reps suggested we look into it. They thought we would be a good fit and that Grassroots would be a benefit for us. Then, Wes Allen, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance’s president, contacted us. And that was flattering of course! At that time, because our owner had less-than-positive experiences with buying groups in the past, we really had a we’re-done-with-groups attitude. Then, we attended Connect, the new event that was launched last November, and we realized we really wanted to be a part of Grassroots.

What about Connect impressed you?

It was refreshing to be at a trade show where business—and not just partying—was happening after 3 p.m. That was pretty nice. Everyone who attended was there to do business, and I liked that aspect of it very much. Also, we had the opportunity to meet with other buyers and to meet with principals from the vendor side and I think that was a real asset. The selection of vendors was fantastic, as well. It certainly is a place where we can get the job done with our core vendors very well.

Connect, of course, occurs much earlier in the buying season than do other events. Was that a positive experience for you?

If you want to go to trade shows as a part of your soft goods purchasing, timing wise, Connect is the only show that works. I don’t know why apparel vendors bother to go to Outdoor Retailer’s winter or summer market, because they are so late. It’s all done at that point.

Why, in your opinion, is Grassroots Outdoor Alliance important to independent retailers and to the industry as a whole?

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is an awesome organization, built absolutely by and for independent retailers. We are glad to be a part of a community that shares our motivation to affirm the importance of community-based retailers to the whole industry. Specialty retailers are the pulse and heartbeat—the core—of the greater outdoor industry.

What benefits do you believe Grassroots offers its members?

Grassroots strengthens our voice as independent retailers. There is strength in numbers. Grassroots also provides independent retailers with an open forum to share their experiences, successes and failures with others. That opportunity is important: whether it be how to approach marketing, how to create an online presence, or how to deal with any other number of topics facing the industry, we can see what other retailers, vendor partners, and the people who work directly with Grassroots are doing.

How do you expect your membership with Grassroots will help Rusted Moon Outfitters, specifically?

For one, I expect our membership with Grassroots will help strengthen our vendor relations. Grassroots Outdoor Alliance has a really good reputation among core vendors in the industry. I’ve already gotten several e-mails from vendor partners saying, “Congrats, we’re glad you’ve joined the alliance. It’ll be great for you.” I think that says something there. And while we value the opinions of our sales reps and they are fantastic, it’s nice to broaden our scope from outside our region. I mean, I am smart enough to know I am not always the smartest guy in the room, and I am experienced enough to know I haven’t experienced everything. I want to share my knowledge and experience, but I certainly want to have other people with other experiences and knowledge to share that back. Grassroots provides us with that opportunity. It is a community we haven’t been a part of before now. When you are independent, you are truly independent. Unless you are the smartest guy in the room every time, that can be a lonely place to be.




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