Dan White, the store leader for the new Scheels All Sports in Southgate Mall, was busy all spring and summer hiring more than 200 employees to operate the enormous facility.
“We’d like to get to 250,” he said.
The Missoula Scheels held a grand opening on Oct. 2. In late September, White was making sure his staff was ready to handle the crowds.
“For a customer count, we’ve seen opening days where customers start camping out two days prior and there’s 3,000 people outside the building,” he said.
The 110,000-square-foot store is almost twice the size of two NFL football fields combined and boasts an inventory so massive that it will take hours for a customer to peruse every section.
“Anything you need for sports equipment, we’ve got it,” White said, walking past an arcade for kids that features a laser gun range.
There's a dedicated Trek bicycle retail section, a coffee and treat shop, an indoor archery range, a small bowling alley and 70 individual specialty shops. Some shops specialize in apparel, others in water sports or kids’ gear.
“Each specialty shop does all its own purchasing,” White explained “What works well in Billings may not work well in Missoula, so we can react to what our customers want. That’s the same for fishing, shoes, across the board.”
The store's offerings will change for the seasons, so an ice-fishing shop will pop up in winter but a waterskiing shop will pop up in summer, White said.
Customers can be assured they’re talking to people who know about the products they’re selling, White said.
“We would never hire an archery person who’s not passionate about archery,” he said. “We bring them to other stores to train, but we also send them to what we call universities. Every Scheels store sends people to one central location for a week. If they’re in archery, they work on archery and work with the best vendors in the business.”
If they are in the waterskiing section, they’ll spend a week on a boat learning everything about the sport.
“We really pride ourselves on hands-on training.” White said. “It’s all about the hands-on and getting out there and doing it.”
It’s the North Dakota-headquartered, employee-owned retailer’s third Montana location after Billings and Great Falls. The Missoula store doesn’t have an indoor Ferris wheel like Billings, but there is a giant hand-carved sasquatch statue.
White said the most important thing is that the company donates time and money to local community organizations and projects.
“10% of our proceeds go right back into the community,” White said. “Not into some national organization, but right here in Missoula. I get approached by nonprofits all the time, and the first thing I always ask is ‘can my people come?’ So we help clean up the YWCA and we got out and cleaned up graffiti."
The store sponsored the Missoula Day of Giving monetarily and also sent 40 workers to help out, he said.
Associates are also paid to volunteer on their own time.
The store is located at 2901 Brooks Street, and will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturdays and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sundays.