Inside the Grand Opening of Public Lands
OBJ got a behind-the-scenes look at the grand opening of Public Lands, the new retail concept from Dick's Sporting goods, in Pennsylvania
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The doors opened this past weekend on the new outdoor retail concept by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Public Lands, led by industry veteran Todd Spaletto. The 50,000-square-foot store in Cranberry, Pa. (a suburb of Pittsburgh) is located in a busy shopping area, sandwiched between a Best Buy and a Walmart. The weekend-long event kicked off bright and early on Friday morning with a team pep talk by the executive chairman of Dick’s, Ed Stack. President and CEO Lauren Hobart was also in attendance to lead the store’s team in a raucous pre-opening cheer (captured below) and to support the 100+ staffers who have been working for months in preparation of the grand opening.
“Public Lands is an opportunity to reinvent the outdoor category, and now seeing it come to life, we could not be more excited about what Todd Spaletto and our team have put together,” Hobart says. “Whether you are just starting to explore a new activity or are planning to climb to the highest heights, Public Lands will have what you need. And we’re proud that Public Lands is connected to the community, protecting our nation’s public lands, and making outdoor activity more inclusive.”
Todd Spaletto was in attendance as well, touring guests around the sprawling store and leading the ribbon cutting ceremony with Hobart and Mark Thomas, president of Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, a nonprofit marketing group for economic development in the Pittsburgh region.
A Tour of Public Lands
“It’s fantastic to finally welcome explorers inside the store,” Spaletto told OBJ while standing near the giant stone fireplace at the entrance this weekend.“Explorers” are customers in Public Lands parlance, while employees are referred to as “guides.”
Spaletto toured OBJ around the store, pointing out some of the key concepts and features. He spoke a lot about what he calls “brand moments.
“We’ve tried to create brand moments all throughout the store,” Spaletto said, referring to the neatly merchandised brand-centric displays of familiar players like Patagonia, The North Face, Smartwool, YETI, and Hydro Flask, interwoven with lesser known labels like Howler Bros., Free People, Alpine Design, Houdini, and Herschel.
The store is organized into “shops” around the perimeter, which feature different categories of gear—cooking, camping, footwear, climbing, fishing, and cycling among them—with a large apparel section in the center. A 30-foot climbing wall lines the back of the store and a gear rental and repair shop occupies a large area near the checkout stations.
Spaletto pointed to the artwork hung throughout the space. “All of these photos were shot locally, which was really important to us as a way to welcome the local community and highlight the natural resources of the area,” he said. Another way Public Lands is doing that is by supporting local food businesses and artists. There’s a section near the back that features local edibles such as honey, coffee, syrup, granola, salts, and pickles. One corner of the shop is dedicated to featuring local artists’ work.
Brittany Howard and Portugal. The Man Play at Opening Party
Throughout the weekend, customers roamed the parking lot, participating in games and challenges, scarfing down treats from the food trucks, and kicking back in NEMO camp chairs while listening to live music.
On Saturday night, a musical act featured two big names: Portugal. The Man and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.
“The energy with Brittany Howard playing with Portugal. The Man turned the parking lot into a vibrant outdoor festival,” says Andrew Huynh, a public lands advocate and Pennsylvania native with a passion for fishing and the outdoors. “Brittany shared her authentic passion for fly fishing and access to our public lands for all. It was a fantastic set that rocked the house.”
The Core Mission of Public Lands Goes Beyond Retail
The core mission of Public Lands is plastered in big white block letters as you enter the store: “We exist to celebrate and protect public lands for all.”
“What we mean by that is we want to celebrate the entire experience that comes with being in the outdoors,” Spaletto says. “Many of our most cherished memories come from what happens before and after the physical activity; it’s the campsites, art, music, food—and the store is set up around those moments. We will protect public lands by advocating for and working to preserve our wild places through our give-back strategy, local partnerships with groups such as Allegheny Cleanways, and volunteer community hours working directly on outdoor restoration projects. And above all is our push for inclusivity. We believe that all skill levels, ethnicities, and preferences should experience the outdoors and we will be working with partners to promote that through products and services like rentals, classes, and events so people can try something new.”
The Public Lands website has been up and running for a week or so, and Spaletto says that sales have been popping. But the site is not just about e-commerce. Much like REI’s website, Public Lands’ site features educational content, a docket of classes and volunteer opportunities, and plenty of calls to action for people to get involved with advocacy and conservation work.
For anyone interested in working at the first Public Lands location, the store is currently hiring and offering $500 signing bonuses. The second Public Lands retail location is slated to open in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of October. As yet, the company has not disclosed plans about any locations beyond these first two.
“We’re focused on getting these two stores and our website site up and running and learning from those experiences,” Spaletto says.
Scenes from the Grand Opening
The first location of Public Lands is now open for business. Here’s a look inside.