Southern California’s second Bass Pro Shops — those eye-catching and large outdoor outfitter stores — is coming to Irvine by early 2023.
The chain’s “Outdoor World” is going into a vacant 140,000-square-foot space at Alton Marketplace, an Irvine Co. property just off the 5 freeway at Alton Parkway. The shopping center, with its colorful freeway signage, is perhaps best known for the Costco store and its gas station next door.
The new store will open in “late 2022 or early 2023,” said the merchant that’s a pioneer in what’s called “destination shopping” — places that become attractions by themselves. Bass Pro has been in Rancho Cucamonga since 2007 in a high-profile spot off the 15 freeway in the Victoria Gardens shopping district.
Bass Pro stores are filled with merchandise that targets outdoor enthusiasts, notably fishing and hunting fans. Outdoor World also sells boats and off-road vehicles. Other adventurous types from campers to hikers and runners also will find numerous aisles catering to their needs.
But what makes a Bass Pro store different is what’s described by the merchant as its “immersive experience hand-crafted by a team of talented artists and craftsmen.” Stores have an overall woodsy feel — outside and inside — and are highlighted by various indoor water features such as huge aquariums.
And while the Irvine and the 182,000-square-foot Rancho Cucamonga locations are relatively large stores, they are by no way the largest Bass Pro locations. Stores in the chain’s hometown of Springfield, Mo., and Memphis are more than three times bigger — with a half-million-plus square feet of shopping space.
“Adding America’s top outdoor brand will be a major draw to this premier location,” Ken Gillet, senior vice president for the Irvine Co.’s retail division, said in a statement.
The distinct shopping formula has worked well for the privately held Bass Pro with 170 stores across North America including 86 Cabela’s — a competitor it bought in 2017.
It’s added up to a fortune worth $6 billion for founder Johnny Morris, according to Forbes magazine. That’s quite an evolution from Morris’ modest start in retailing — selling fishing tackle in 1972 in the corner of his father’s Missouri liquor store.
“We are tremendously excited to have the opportunity to partner with the Irvine Co. to bring our next generation Outdoor World store to Irvine. There is no stronger company to work with in the region,” Morris said in a statement.
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The Bass Pro announcement is part of a noteworthy Southern California retail revival. The pandemic era’s push toward online retailing didn’t kill consumers’ wishes for the experience of in-store shopping.
For example, store owners in the four-county region employed 735,000 in March after regaining 98% of the 150,000 jobs lost in early 2020. Coronavirus business limitations that iced the economy had cost 1-in-5 local retail workers their jobs.
The turnabout has also helped Irvine Co. land some fancy additions to its retailing lineup.
Bristol Farms just opened a new supermarket concept across the 5 from Alton Marketplace at Irvine Spectrum. And in Newport Beach, Fashion Island is getting a four-story, high-end RH furniture ‘gallery’ that will open in 2024.
One surprising retail victim of the pandemic era shut last year at the Alton Marketplace site that Bass Pro will now occupy.
In February 2021, Wal-Mart announced it was closing what it described as an underperforming store. And a curious twist: Walmart in 2012 took over that site from Sears that had operated a short-lived home furnishings concept — the Great Indoors — at Alton Marketplace from 2001 to 2011.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com