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After more than 40 years in business, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is closing all its locations by the end of the month.
The small East Coast retailer was once a dominant force in the outdoor market there, boasting shops in Virginia, Tennessee and New Jersey. But now its website and Facebook pages feature blue ads promoting their liquidation sales. The time has come, the ads say, “to say ‘Happy Trails.’” Liquidation discounts were bumped up to 50 percent from 40 on Thursday.
“I bought my first pair of Smartwool socks here when I was in high school,” said Mary Stump, assistant manager of the Knoxville, Tenn., location, which was scheduled to close its doors for good on Sunday. “They have been the best outfitter in Knoxville for 30-something years.”
The chain had as many as 11 stores as recently as 2012, but was down to seven by August, 2015. A BRMS press release dated Aug. 5, 2015 stated that the company had secured financing to buy inventory for its seven stores through Strategic Funding Source, Inc., which finances small and midsize businesses. SFS hoped “to be involved with BRMS for the next 40 years of its history,” the company’s vice president, James Catanzaro, said at the time in the press release.
BRMS CEO Stephen Nauss said in the release that the company looked forward to partnering with SFS to “smooth and bolster the seasonality effects of the retail market.”
BRMS did not respond to requests for comment made via phone, email and Facebook. The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote earlier this month that the chain started closing some of its stores in the past couple of years because of “increasing competition and a tough retail environment.”
Late last year, a rumor circulated that Alabama Outdoors would buy BRMS, saving it, but any deal that may have been in the works had clearly fallen through when BRMS announced roughly two weeks ago it would be going out of business.
Alabama Outdoors did not respond to an email asking about the rumored acquisition plans.
“There was a period of time where Blue Ridge Mountain Sports was really kind of a dominant player in that part of the world, but in recent years they were really kind of outcompeted by both the independents, and kind of some newer chains,” said Wes Allen, president of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance.
Most stores have already closed since the beginning of the month, and only three are currently listed on its website.
BRMS has tried hard over the years to be involved with its shops’ communities, Stump said, and it shows – customers have come into her shop emotional about its closing.
“We appreciate people standing behind us,” Stump said. “Our parting words want to be ones of appreciation and fond memories, and wishing customers well on the trail and in the community.”