TopVet: Jim Cabela

Jim and Dick Cabela

Few, if any, businesses today survive the kitchen-table dreams of their founders. Yet, the leader in the outdoor sporting goods and equipment industry has done just that - survived, grown and prospered from simple beginnings to become the largest mail-order, retail, and Internet outdoor outfitter in the world--all with the contributions of an Army National Guardsman as its co-founder.

Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter of hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear, was born somewhat inadvertently in 1961 when Dick Cabela came up with a plan to sell fishing flies he purchased while at a furniture show and working for his father’s company. Initially, Dick Cabela and his wife Mary were able to handle the growing business with the help of temporary typists hired for mail, label and catalog preparation.

By the fall of 1962, they realized the demands of their new venture needed full-time attention. Dick urged his younger brother Jim to join the new company, which he did in 1963. Neither Dick, Mary nor Jim took any salary from the company in those early years, although Jim’s National Guard Salary helped them get through the early stages. Instead, they invested in more mailings, new equipment and bigger facilities.By 1964, continued success and growth demanded a bigger and better location.

The operation was moved from their kitchen table to the basement of Dick and Jim’s father’s furniture store and then on to various buildings in Chappell, Nebraska. In 1969, Cabela’s was operating in a 50,000 square-foot vacant John Deere building in neighboring downtown Sidney, Nebraska.

Nearly 30 years later, in January 1998, employees moved out of the original Sidney headquarters building into a new 120,000-square-foot world headquarters. The two-story building, which is large enough to fit a football field on each floor, houses offices for nearly 500 employees. But even that facility was quickly outgrown. To accommodate the increased growth in all areas of the company, construction of a new, state-of-the-art addition more than doubling the size of the world-headquarters building was completed in the summer of 2002.

The foundation of the company is its world-famous catalog business. The company produces more than 76 different catalogs per year, including specialty books focusing on such outdoor pursuits as archery, fly-fishing and boating, as well as massive 500+-page Spring and Fall Master catalogs. Internationally known as a source of affordable, high-quality outdoor equipment, Cabela’s catalogs are shipped to all 50 states and 120 countries. More than 120 million catalogs are mailed each year with demand continuing to grow.

Cabela’s retail division operates popular destination stores throughout the country. As much wildlife museums and education centers as retail stores, Cabela’s showrooms are an outdoor enthusiasts’ "Disneyland" and provide a truly unique shopping experience.

Both Cabela’s Outfitter Journal magazine and Cabela’s television show further enhance the company’s brand image and provide the public with two entertaining and educational ways to experience what Cabela’s is about. These media outlets provide sportsmen and women the opportunity to learn what the outdoors has to offer through top-quality production and with informative features from the nation’s most knowledgeable outdoor journalists and personalities.

Cabela’s success hasn’t gone unrecognized, as evidenced by the number of commendations and awards bestowed upon the company in recent years. In 2001, the Cabela’s Catalog was ranked as the fifth most popular catalog, behind such direct-mail giants as J. C. Penney and Sears, in a Consumer Shopping Survey administered by Catalog Age magazine. Recent awards include: ShotBusiness magazine’s 2002 Retailer of the Year; Sporting Goods Business magazine 2002 Specialty Retailer of the Year and 2001 Circle of Excellence Award for outstanding web site performance over the holiday season. In addition, Cabela’s employees were instrumental in naming the company one of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in Forbes magazine’s January 2000 issue.

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