Cabela’s at Quil Ceda Village opens to high-fives

TULALIP — Cabela’s, “world’s foremost outfitters,” opened the 110,000-square-foot Quil Ceda Village store on the Tulalip Reservation today to the cheers of more than 3,000 eager customers. They entered the store through a crowd of grinning employees, who exchanged high-fives with each one.

Getting the most attention were the three men at the head of the line: Roman Santiago of Mukilteo*, and Brandon Peters and John Gear, both of Everett. They arrived together at 3 p.m. the previous day to be ready for the opening.

“For 30 years we’ve had to find outdoor gear and clothing elsewhere or in catalogs or, more recently, by making the long drive to the Lacey Cabela’s store” near Olympia, said Gear. “This is exciting.” Santiago and Peters, both outdoor enthusiasts, agreed with Gear about the excitement to have a Cabela’s store so close. An orderly crowd of thousands was right behind them, filling the fishing, camping, hunting and archery departments.

At a brief ceremony, Mel Sheldon, Tulalip Tribes board chairman, was joined by Cabela’s CEO Thomas Millner and chief operations officer Michael Copeland.

Millner, introduced as the company’s “chief outfitter,” welcomed the crowd to the opening of the company’s 37th store and told of a Texas opening where “someone in the crowd shouted out during the opening ceremony, ‘Shut up and open the doors!’ So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” The crowd responded with applause and a roar of approval. People coming to the event filled most of overflow parking on the open land between the Home Depot store and Cabela’s. A steady stream of new faces filed into the store all morning.

During the long wait Thursday morning, the crowd was entertained by country music from a Monroe band, Bucking Horse.

Shortly before the 11 a.m. opening, noted archery marksman Cameron Hanes cut the ribbon — by slicing it with an arrow shot from his compound bow.

Store manager Kevin Weeks said the Cabela’s story began with both the store and the Tulalip Tribes calling each other, often with long lapses between calls.

“They were each mulling it over and finally there was mutual agreement that the site would be good for both Cabela’s and the Tulalips,” Weeks said.

Sheldon noted that Cabela’s is a perfect fit for the Northwest and for the tribes’ Quil Ceda Village site.

“I think this Cabela’s store is going to be a terrific attraction for not only Snohomish County but also for King, Skagit and others, including British Columbia,” Sheldon said.

Copeland said he’s been in several local businesses while he’s been in Snohomish County for the opening and “I was amazed at the real excitement and talk everywhere about Cabela’s opening at Tulalip.” Inside the store, shoppers and gawkers mingled among the aisles of clothing, gear and equipment, including guns, bows, fishing rods and boats. Customers looked pleased to be at Cabela’s for the long-awaited opening.

Cabela’s is more than just a great store for sporting goods, “it’s a great place for fun,” said Katie Sanford, the store’s retail event coordinator. “People come here for the experience as much as the products. We have events, with well-known personalities, two huge aquariums with Northwest fish, a rare-gun library, an array of 200 Northwest mounted animals and special displays for hunting, fishing, boating, clothing and camping.”

Weeks said Cabela’s sets up entertaining events inside and outside the store so customers can have a good time.

Inside, there’s a deli, a fudge shop, indoor archery range, a “bargain cove,” plenty of art murals of the Northwest, carvings by Tulalip Tribes members and hanging displays of orca whales and salmon.

Nearly 300 employees — called “outfitters” in Cabela’s jargon — have been hired to operate the new store, many of them experts in the hunting, fishing or camping areas where they work. About 60 percent of them are full-time. Chosen from more than 1,300 applicants, some were former employees of the now-closed Kimberly-Clark mill in Everett and Northwest Hardwoods in Arlington.

The grand opening included presentations by C.J. Buck, president and CEO of Buck Knives, and a display of firearms, knives, ammunition and accessories at the Beretta Mobile Showroom. The mobile display runs through Sunday.

On Saturday, R. Lee Ermey, “The Gunny” actor from television, visits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., sponsored by SOG Knives of Lynnwood. On Sunday, Troy and Jacob Landry of TV’s “Swamp People” will be on hand from noon to 4 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the K9 Kings Flying Dog Show will present demonstrations at noon, 3 and 6 p.m.

Correction, April 20, 2012: Roman Santiago’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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