SHAHEEN SADEGHI WANTS TO TEACH outdoor-crazed adults what teenagers learned a long time ago: Hanging out at the mall can be fun. At least, that seems to be the premise behind The Camp, a new 3.5-acre, $13-million adventure-sports retail complex in Costa Mesa, California. Part galleria, part town-square-with-a-diving-tank, this new-frontier shopping nexus is designed to turn your next gear-buying trip into an all-day, full-contact expedition.
Hang Time: A typical day at the camp in Costa Mesa, California, April 2002
There are worse places to spend a Sunday afternoon. The Camp's spiffy wood, steel, and glass buildings house a Patagonia outlet and an Adventure 16 store, Cycle Werks bike shop, Liburdi's Scuba Center (complete with a 41,000-gallon saltwater practice pool), Billabong's flagship store (glass-walled half-pipe included), a Bikram Yoga studio, and three restaurants, one tucked inside a concrete yurt. Add to that an amphitheater, fire pit, and landscaping heavy on the Zen rock-garden vibe, and the complex feels more like a chic getaway than an experiment in marketing. This summer, The Camp will amp up the appeal by offering outdoor-skills clinics, athlete appearances, weekend movies, and other special events.
Sadeghi, the 48-year-old former president of Quiksilver, hopes his brainchild will become a hub for SoCal's outdoor community, but don't go there looking for an Army surplus store. The Camp's prime location means above-average rent, and Sadeghi is turning away dozens of less-than-cool retailers. "I go to places like Costco to buy my toothpaste, not a kayak," he says. "We want to provide a soulful, authentic, shopping experience." Soulful or not, Sadeghi's privately owned venture will, by his estimate, pull in $30 million in sales its first year.
Will skeptical outdoor athletes buy it? If Sadeghi's first foray into niche retailing is any indication, yes. Ten years ago he hit the jackpot with The Lab, an "antimall" featuring urban boutiques carefully defiled with broken sidewalks and weedy plants. "My expectation is that The Camp will succeed," says Michael Hodgson, copublisher of the online outdoor-industry newsletter Specialty NEWS. "It's a place to dream about where you can go and play. It doesn't get any better than that." Unless, of course, you decide to leave the concrete yurt and actually go outside.