The people have spoken.
One month ago, we asked you to vote on the coolest retail shop in the nation from our list of 15 standouts featured in last year’s #CoolShop column. We received more than 42,000 votes—the largest poll participation in SNEWS history—and the results are in. The winner of the inaugural CoolShop Award—earning a whopping 50 percent of the votes—goes to GearHeads Outdoor Store in Moab, Utah.
“We are so honored and thankful for this award,” wrote co-owner Steve Kennedy. “If you’re visiting Moab, there are three main attractions you must see: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Gearheads Outdoor Store—not necessarily in that order.”
GearHeads was founded in 1998 by Kennedy’s two younger brothers, Doug and Greg Kennedy. In 22 years, the shop hasn’t moved from its longtime home, a single-story brick building that draws visitors year round who come to ogle (and shop) the store’s unique, frenzied inventory of gear: packs and water bottles covering every inch of the walls, sleeping bags and snowshoes hanging from the ceiling.
“It’s easy to tell when somebody is coming in for the first time because they walk in, look up, and they’re like, ‘Wow, look at all this,'” Kennedy said in an interview for the #CoolShop column last year.
But perhaps the retailer’s most unique and charitable offering is the availability of free filtered water for anyone who needs it. For a store located in the middle of the desert, this is no small gesture.
“Hydration is vital, especially in our high desert region,” Kennedy said. “The record [for the biggest] water fill was achieved by The University of Buffalo Geology Field Camp. They hauled 535 gallons by hand to their equipment van.”
Kennedy says the water isn’t a gimmick; it’s part of the store’s overhead and GearHeads’ larger mission. He hopes it will build loyalty and trust among his customers (not to mention cut down on single-use plastic bottles). If the results of SNEWS’ poll are any indication, his hunch is correct. The store received more than 21,000 votes for CoolShop of the year, beating out the runner-up by a full 7,000.
For winning the award, GearHeads will receive $500 to throw a staff appreciation party, a custom banner created by artist Latasha Dunston, and a slot on the Channel Mastery podcast. Kennedy was happy to accept the custom banner and the podcast feature, but as for the $500, he has something different in mind.
“We’ve been talking about this great honor and have decided we would like to donate the prize money to the Access Fund to help with the work they do maintaining the fragile desert environment and helping with trail maintenance and educating the public,” he said.
Even for the owner of the nation’s coolest shop, that’s a pretty cool move.