What's in store at Cabela's

Doug Goodman

From the fishing flies to $50,000 antique rifles, you’ll find nearly anything connected to outdoor activities at the Cabela’s that opened Friday in Hoffman Estates.

The 185,000-square-foot store is the chain’s 20th and its first in Illinois. But calling it a store is a gross understatement.

“It’s a family destination,” spokesman John Castillo said during a media-only tour Thursday.

He expected as many as 60,000 visitors/shoppers to pass through the doors this weekend and 4 million annually. Half the visitors will come from more than 50 miles away -- downtown Rockford is 55 miles away.

Cabela’s officials expect the store to be one of the state’s largest tourist attractions. That projection is based on success in other states. The store outside Detroit is Michigan’s top tourist attraction, while the two stores in Minnesota rank second and third for tourism behind the Mall of America.

Customers’ average stay will be 3 1/2 hours, according to company surveys.

“People come here to shop -- the store brings the (Cabela’s) catalog to life -- and they come to enjoy the outdoor experience,” Castillo said.

That experience is immediately evident when shoppers walk through the doors. A 26-foot mountain replica is the centerpiece of the $4 million facility. Arranged on the mountain are a variety of North American trophy animals in full-body mounts, such as deer, elk, mountain lions and sheep.

Illinois fish in aquarium

While all Cabela’s have similar mountains, the Hoffman Estates version is unique because underneath it is a 16,000-gallon aquarium where visitors can view several species of fish found in Illinois, including huge flathead catfish, bass, bluegills, crappie, common carp and salmon.

Another place where shoppers will do more looking than buying is the gun library, where 300 collector firearms are displayed in glass cases. The gun library is a trademark for Cabela’s stores that provides the public with a glimpse of history, a company official said.

The most expensive weapon on display is a 1880s Marlin Ballard Montana .45-caliber buffalo rifle selling for $49,999.

While that is too pricey for most shoppers, the store has plenty of other options.

Aisles and aisles are filled with fishing, hunting, camping and boating equipment. Castillo said the inventory is geared for the Illinois sportsman.

“Our store in Utah would have more fly-fishing equipment. Our Minnesota stores have more muskie and walleye stuff,” he said.

“Here we have a larger selection of waterfowl and bow-hunting equipment. We have put an emphasis on those categories.”

Catalog connection

Cabela’s officials believe they know what sells in Illinois after studying purchases made by catalog customers with ZIP codes within 100 miles of the store.

In addition to the equipment, the store has an array of clothing for men, women and children. And there’s plenty of unexpected items such as a camo-covered poker table and Cabela’s poker chips, mailboxes and furniture that is just fun to look at.

The General Store section also offers freshly made fudge (free samples at the counter), syrups and baking supplies. Meals are available at the store’s restaurant.

Kids can try their skills at the shooting gallery, while adults can do the same at the Laser Shot Arcade.

And, finally, the store has a special attraction outside the front doors -- a large bronze statue of two deer leaping over a barbed wire fence. The statue was designed special for the Hoffman Estate’s store.

Reporter Doug Goodman can be reached at 815-987-1386 or dgoodman@rrstar.com