Retailer Spotlight: Adventure Bound Onthefly in Western New York
Forget cash and credit cards. This outdoor retailer accepts cryptocurrency in exchange for guided fly fishing trips and a special line of SUPs
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Adventure Bound onthefly owner John Rounds became the first specialty shop in Ellicotteville, New York, and the first outdoor retailer OBJ has heard of so far to embrace cryptocurrency as a means of staying alive in the competitive market.
“Specialty retail is not easy, and in many regards a dying breed,” Rounds sids. “We are continually forced to find ways to be more creative, serve our customers better, innovate in different markets, etcetera, and Bitcoin is one more way we can be flexible for our customers.”
After a 20-year hiatus from 1995 to 2015, the New York native reinvented his parents’ snow sports shop with a greater focus on guided fly fishing and SUP trips, leading him to add “on the fly” to the original name.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday covered, Rounds thought, why not invent Crypto Sunday in between? For the inaugural year, he offered a 20 percent discount to anyone who paid with Bitcoin, or the other crytocurrencies, Lite Coin and Ethereum. He hoped for more, but two customers tapped into the deal: a woman who purchased two guided fly fishing trips — worth nearly $400 each — and a father and son learning about cryptocurrency. Their purchase of a Nite Ize LED accessory was their first transaction.
“It’s a very small portion of our transactions, but it’s an alignment with other things that we do that are innovative and market-leading, like SUP-based fly fishing trips,” Rounds said. “Both are great differentiators in the marketplace and ways to increase awareness around the things that we do.”
Rounds first introduced the new option to pay online in 2014 and began offering it in the storefront in late 2017 to serve a wider pool of customers, such as those from just a few hours north in Canada. Since November 26, celebrated by Adventure Bound as Crypto Sunday, Rounds says he has not converted the day’s $900 in total transactions back into U.S. dollars, but hopes Bitcoin is worth more when he does to make up for the discount.
With only three Bitcoin transactions in the past three weeks, the alternate form of payment is slowly resonating with customers. But Rounds sees it as getting ahead of the curve.
“Cryptocurrencies are going to play a major role in the future of the world economy,” Rounds said. “Exactly how that’s going to play out is yet to be determined.”
‘Only Boat Floating’
Rounds parents closed Adventure Bound in 1995, and other ski and snow shops came to the village to serve visitors to the two major resorts, Holiday Valley Ski Area and HoliMont. But nobody was offering fly-fishing trips on stand-up paddleboards and other paddle adventures.
“There was a niche to be served that didn’t exist, as opposed to going in and competing with a very established community of ski shops,” Rounds said.
The four-season resort community of about 400 year-round residents is at the epicenter of some of the best fishing in the country, located just south of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Damon Newpher, who manages Adventure Bound’s fly fishing trips, says the diversity of fish — from salmon to musky to the more common trout — can be compared to that of Alaska. And despite being within two hours of 22 million people in the major cities of Cleveland, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Toronto, solitude is not hard to come by on the water.
“What makes it so special is that the streams we fish on aren’t crowded,” Newpher said. “You don’t have to apply for a permit a month in advance to float a boat down the river. Sometimes you’re the only one out there.”
Adventure Bound in the 21st Century
The business might have a different focus and new name, but it has stayed in the same family and its original building. Rounds got lucky — his mother has remained the owner of the multi-tier space downtown.
“We joked sometimes that we were full-time wood burning heating people and part-time retailers because there were five wood stoves on three levels and it was full-time job keeping everything warm there,” Rounds said, mentioning that he’s since updated to modern heat.
Adventure Bound’s number one brands are Patagonia, Osprey, Sorrel, and SUP onthefly, Rounds’ own line of stand-up paddleboards. Even though the focus has shifted, customers can still buy ski gear and rent snowshoes like they could in the old store.
“People come in constantly and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that you’re back. I remember when you were a kid.’ Or, ‘I bought my first boots or jacket here.’ There are a lot of those conversations, which are really fun,” Rounds said. “There’s a lot more connection to the original store than I ever anticipated.”