Cabela's grand opening draws 5,000

Hunters, campers and curious gather to formally open long-awaited store

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Parker resident Joe Folmar and Elizabeth’s Chris Alward suffered through a cold, windy Wednesday night in the Lone Tree Cabela’s parking lot. Thursday morning, that earned them spots near the front of a line a few-thousand-people in length.

“We slept in our lawn chairs, tucked into a little ball,” Folmar said. “It was probably about 50 degrees with 30 mph winds. I think it’s worth it. Now, it’s just what kinda goodies are we going to get?”

Cabela’s gave gift cards in varying amounts — one for $500 — to the first 500 people in line for the Lone Tree store’s Aug. 15 grand opening.

Campers started showing up at the store Aug. 13, store officials said. By the time the doors opened at 11 a.m., they estimated 5,000 people were waiting in a line that stretched all the way around the 110,000-square-foot building.

Another 5,000 more gathered several miles north at the Thornton store, which opened simultaneously. Lone Tree’s store, at 110,000 square feet, is slightly larger than Thornton’s, and even surpasses the 85,000-square-foot Sidney, Neb., store in size.

Most in line said they were longtime Cabela’s customers, many of whom previously had made the long journey to the Sidney store. Cabela’s is headquartered in Sidney. Some were hunters, some campers and some just curious.

“I think we mainly came because it’s fun to people watch,” said Golden resident Kerry Bostwick. “This is really fun. Everyone is so laid back.”

“I’m excited to look at the clothing and shoes and not have to guess at the size,” said Littleton’s Randy Alldridge, who in the past was a Cabela’s catalog shopper.

Rock music blasted across the parking lot, and cart-pushing Cabela’s employees doled out water bottles and doughnuts to the waiting customers.

While tour buses deposited customers at the back of the store and the overflow parking lot at Havana Street and RidgeGate Parkway threatened to overflow, store employees rallied inside. Football in hand, Cabela’s regional retail manager Diane Uhlenkamp revved up the more than 200 staff members and corporate visitors crowded inside the store’s massive main hall.

“It’s Super Bowl time,” she said. “It’s gonna be big from here on out. Take great care of those folks out there because that’s what we’re here for.”

“This has been (founder) Dick Cabela’s dream — to have a store in Denver,” Cabela’s COO Michael Copeland said, adding the opening of two stores simultaneously exceeded that vision. “We’ve already set some records this week. I don’t know what they put in the water in Denver.”

Copeland led employees in a cheer, asking, “Who are we?”

“Lone Tree, Lone Tree, Mile High Great,” the staff roared in return.

Moments before the doors opened, store, county and city officials addressed the huge crowd, most of whom were so far from the doors, they couldn’t hear the speeches.

Cabela’s is “a perfect complement to the world-class retail we have down here,” said Lone Tree Mayor Jim Gunning, urging the crowd to remember the day was a celebration of Cabela’s. “So when you walk in, don’t be stingy.”

County Commissioner Jack Hilbert took Gunning’s advice to heart. An avid outdoorsman, Hilbert said he spent about $1,000 during a preview event at the store and another $100 on opening day.

“This is fantastic,” he said. “You don’t see a grand opening in Douglas County like this.”

“Awesome,” County Commissioner Jill Repella agreed. “I’m extremely proud. The site exceeded my expectations, the store exceeded my expectations, the grand opening exceeded my expectations.”