By Scott McKie B.P.
One Feather staff
The EBCI could possibly partner with famed fisherman Orlando Wilson on an outdoor store similar in nature to Bass Pro Shop. The idea, in the preliminary stages of development, was discussed at the EBCI Planning Board meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.
Dr. Mickey Duvall, director of EBCI Planning and Economic Development, gave a presentation on the idea which would establish the first Orlando Wilson Outdoor World Store in Cherokee. The store would establish a new retail brand and would be the first in a planned branded chain of stores.
“The deal looks sound,” said Dr. Duvall who related that the store would generate around $26 million in gross sales each year and could create around 125 jobs in Cherokee. “You can see the potential for profit here is good.”
The proposed store, which has an initial project price tag of $14 million, would be located on a 4.1 acre piece of property located on the right side of US 441 spur across from the Food Lion development. Spake Development was set to develop that property, but according to Dr. Duvall they were not able to garner funding for their project and it fell through.
The proposed store would include a 50,000 square foot building and a 25,000 square foot covered area to sell boats, ATVs, and other similar items.
Several Tribal Council members raised questions on the proposal.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke said the lack of an established brand makes her leery, “If he doesn’t even have a store; that does concern me. It may be a good opportunity for us, but it will be a good opportunity for him too. Is he not going to put up anything?”
She also said that she wants a firm commitment from the namesake. “I just don’t want to drag this out like Wal-Mart. I don’t want to go through the same thing with another outfit promising, promising, promising and not going anywhere.”
Birdtown Rep. Tunney Crowe commented, “I think if we’re going to fund this thing we should call it the Cherokee Outdoor Center, not the Orlando Wilson Outdoor Center.”
Principal Chief Michell Hicks said that name recognition would be a large selling point for the project. “We could potentially generate a Cherokee-named facility, but would it be strong enough when marketing it outside of Asheville?”
He said the Tribe needs to go out and look at new opportunities and have confidence in what the Tribe itself can do. “We have to create something unique for Cherokee.”
Dr. Duvall said he contacted Bass Pro Shop, Sports Authority, and Gander Mountain and none wished to locate in Cherokee due to the traffic volume. He said Bass Pro, in particular, wishes to have traffic counts in the range of 160,000/day and the volume at the location in Cherokee is around 18,000/day.
Planning Board did not take action on the proposal and agreed to discuss this issue in future meetings.