Tax-free Cabela's planned for I-95 site

Cabela’s Inc., the Nebraska-based gun, fishing and outdoor gear store chain, plans an outlet next to Christiana Mall off I-95.

Up until now, Cabela's has favored rural or small-town locations in hunting and fishing country (there are two Cabela's each in West Virginia and Idaho, but none in New Jersey or California). Christiana is highly suburban -- but it's also in Delaware, one of the few states without a sales tax, and an easy drive from the Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington areas and New Jersey.

Work on the store is to start next year; the 110,000 sq ft complex should open in 2014. The store will employ more than 150 fulltime and parttime workers, spokesman Wes Remmer told me; Cabela's is looking for people with "passion for adventure and hunting and fishing," plus a "customer service" personality.

The nearest Cabela's, one of the chain's two largest and busiest stores, is in Hamburg, Pa., north of Reading, which is a neighborhood-sized 250,000 sq ft.  

Remmer says the metro areas near Christiana are full of Cabela's customers: "This company is built on our catalog, and we track our customers through sales. We try to build in spots where we have a high concentration of customers. It's not uncommon for people to drive a couple of hours to visit our stores."

The Cabela's spokesman declined to comment on whether Delaware taxpayers are helping pay for the new store. UPDATE: "While we were happy to point their real estate people in the direction of this location, no State funding was provided for the project," Alan Levin, head of the Delaware Economic Development Office, told me. "We will, however, be offering them assistance in hiring and screening through our Job Squad out of the Department of Labor." 

Cabela's stores offes outdoor tableaus, stone-and-log construction details, a Gun Library, a Bargain Cave, a fudge shop and other features to boost sales and attract whole families. 

The mall, anchored by Nordstrom, Target, Macy's and JCPenney, has struggled to attract new retailers in recent years. "We are thrilled to bring this first-to-market, outdoor sports and activities retailer to our center," mall manager Steven Chambliss said in a statement. Cabela's also announced plans today for a new, smaller outlet in Bristol, VA. The chain now has 38 stores around the U.S., with two more planned this year and seven next year.

Unusual among big U.S. retailers, Cabela's, founded by brothers Dick and Jim Cabela, who still head the corporate board, has boosted sales by more than one-third since 2006, with revenues accelerating since 2009. The stock trades at around $46 share, the highest since its 2004 IPO.