A new store opening is usually a pretty routine affair — a few words from the owner, maybe some remarks from an elected official and then a ribbon cutting, sometimes with an oversized scissors for comical effect. It has all the excitement of a poetry recital.
But that’s not how Bass Pro Shops does it.
The Springfield, Mo.,-based retailer’s opening of its 120,000-square-foot store Wednesday evening on Colorado Springs’ north side was more of an event than a ceremony. There were celebrities on hand, including Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander and Buck Commander and one of the stars of the popular “Duck Dynasty Buck Commander” television show. There was a roughly 35-minute opening that began at 6 p.m., which included a prayer, a singing of God Bless America, the deafening roar of a NASCAR engine and a hearty welcome by Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris.
And, of course, there were people. More than 400 — some of whom had gotten there a day early and relaxed in chairs on a sidewalk — were in the Willie Robertson autograph line. Probably another couple thousand stood in line to the store entrance. Store officials said they wouldn’t know exactly how many until the end of the night. Customers spilled out into the parking lots, and many left their cars on nearby vacant land.
While the store was the main attraction for many people, Robertson was clearly the star of the night.
Brandon Robinson, Joseph Stilley and three friends were first in line for a Robertson autograph; the Springs residents got to Bass Pro at 5 p.m. Tuesday and slept overnight in a pick-up truck.
“I originally came for the Bass Pro Grand opening,” Robinson said, adding he’s been waiting six years for a local store to open. “But a week ago, I heard Willie was coming. At that point, it was like, all right I’m going to see Willie first and then I’ll stay for a little bit to see how Bass Pro looks in the Springs.”
Robertson, wearing his trademark stars-and-stripes bandana, said in an interview that Duck Dynasty is popular because it’s a wholesome program whose values appeal to many people. The A&E reality show follows the lives of the Robertson family of Louisiana, the successful makers of a line of duck calls and other products for duck hunters.
“It’s the family values we have on our show,” Robertson said. “It’s positive. The faith part, we say a prayer at the end (of the program). I think that really resonated with our fans. And it’s funny. It’s authentic and it’s a true American story. A successful story.”
But Steve Griffin and his wife, Della, passed on “that Duck Dynasty guy,” as he called Robertson, in favor of being first in line for the store.
The Colorado Springs residents got there between 9 and 10 a.m. Wednesday. Griffin said he left for a few hours to go back home, but his wife was the real trouper and held their place in line all day.
“I buy clothes from them,” Griffin said. “I buy hunting equipment from them. I buy archery equipment. Guns. Ammunition.
“I’ll be in and out all the time,” he added.
The store address is 13012 Bass Pro Drive, which is just southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard.