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Cabela’s customers say they hope acquisition by Bass Pro doesn’t bring dramatic changes

FILE – An orderly line of several hundred people waits for the store opening Friday, Nov. 9, 2007 at Cabela's new store near Stateline. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – An orderly line of several hundred people waits for the store opening Friday, Nov. 9, 2007 at Cabela's new store near Stateline. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
From staff ,wire reports

For some, a visit Monday to Cabela’s in Post Falls was just another day of shopping. For others, it was the first day under a cloud of uncertainty as to the future of the company following news of its acquisition by outdoor gear giant competitor Bass Pro.

“I hope they keep the same standard Cabela’s is known for,” said Sarah Greenwood, who was shopping with her boyfriend Monday. “I hope it doesn’t change. But if it does, I’m sure we’ll get along.”

Henry Gerber has been a customer of Cabela’s for 30 years. He used to order through their catalog, and now he likes to visit the store to trade in old rifles and buy new ones, along with gunpowder and ammunition. The 79-year-old was unsurprised by the news after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago about the company’s lower-than-expected profits.

“This is probably just Bass Pro bailing them out,” he said.

Bass Pro announced Monday its plans to acquire Cabela’s for $5.5 billion, combining the two companies known for their giant destination superstores. The deal would make Cabela’s private by paying shareholders $65.50 cash per share, a 19 percent premium to Friday’s closing price.

Cabela’s opened a store in Post Falls in 2007. The company and local officials said at the time it could become a regional tourist draw, with its museum-quality displays of wildlife and aquariums filled with native fish.

Some of the drawing capacity of individual stores has been affected by the chain’s expansion – it currently has 85 stores, up from 17 when the Post Falls store was announced – but the closest Cabela’s store to the Post Falls location is still 175 miles away in Missoula. There are also Cabela’s locations in Boise and Idaho Falls, Idaho, and in Union Gap, Washington, and Lacey, Washington, and on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

Cabela’s also helped bring a new Interstate 90 interchange to North Idaho. The developer of the Pointe at Post Falls, where the store is located, paid for the Beck Road interchange that opened in 2012.

Customers at the Post Falls location had a “wait-and-see” attitude and were mostly optimistic. But some were worried about the quality of their preferred outdoor gear destination, especially if Bass Pro ends up closing stores or making changes.

“I wasn’t very fond of Bass Pro,” said Patricia Ryniker, who was shopping with her friend who drove four hours from Canada to shop at Cabela’s. “I love Cabela’s. I love the quality of the stuff.”

Bass Pro Shops are mostly in the East. The chain’s only location in the Pacific Northwest is in Tacoma.

Activist investment firm Elliott Management began pushing for significant changes at Cabela’s last fall. Elliott owns 7.4 percent of Cabela’s shares and holds options to buy another 3.8 percent.

Bass Pro founder and CEO Johnny Morris said he hopes to continue growing the Cabela’s brand alongside his privately held Springfield, Missouri-based chain.

“The story of each of these companies could only have happened in America, made possible by our uniquely American free enterprise system,” Morris said. “We have enormous admiration for Cabela’s, its founders and outfitters, and its loyal base of customers.”

Capital One will take over running Cabela’s credit card unit as part of the deal.

Cabela’s was founded in 1961 when Dick Cabela started selling fishing flies through the mail from his kitchen table with his wife, Mary, and brother, Jim.

Bass Pro got its start in 1971 when Morris began selling high-quality fishing tackle in his dad’s liquor store in Springfield, Missouri.

Staff writer Jonathan Glover and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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