22 Aug 2014
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Wild Earth Weathers the Storm Downtown

New outdoors outfitters shop part of class of new stores in redevelopment

Wild Earth Weathers the Storm Downtown Wild Earth Weathers the Storm Downtown

About a week ago I shared the news of three new restaurants downtown that closed last month mostly due to lackluster sales.

For the sake of balance, I pointed to many of the successful, enduring businesses downtown that remain — including other stores that had opened around the same time those that closed first turned on the lights.

When I didn't mention his business, and rightfully so, Tim Nightengale at Wild Earth Outfitters contacted me to share the fact that his outdoor outfitter — open less than two years — is doing quite well despite multiple road closures and the other challenges that come with being located at ground zero for construction of Kent's redevelopment.

So I was surprised when he hesitated after I asked for his secret to success.

"I hesitate to say success yet," he said. "We still have a long way to go."

More than half a dozen shops have closed since Kent's redevelopment started with the first phase of Acorn Alley in 2009. As the first tenant in the second phase of Acorn Alley Nightengale has seen quite a few of those businesses come and go.

Smart planning, diverse product offerings and a niche market are some of the reasons why Wild Earth hasn't locked the doors like some of its neighbors.

"We're first and foremost a good footwear shop," Nightengale said.

One of his top sellers? Socks. To wrap those feet you'll find one of the widest varieties of in-stock hiking boots around to try on — Wild Earth's biggest seller.

Nightengale comes from an outdoor gear background, so you'll also find a variety of hiking and outdoor-adventure related equipment.

Perhaps a surprising seller at Wild Earth are the store's kayaks.

"We don't try to narrow down our focus too much," Nightengale said.

That's an understatement. In-stock you'll find a premier whitewater kayak from Liquid Logic and a variety of slower-paced fishing kayaks. Either boat could help you find some entertainment just a few blocks away on the Cuyahoga River.

Nightengale conceded that, like any other business, there have been challenges to opening a new shop.

But the other obvious key to his success is that he has a vision for his store and understands the long-term vision for downtown Kent.

Nightengale points to the fact the new Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center will open in June and bring with it a continual flow of foot traffic to the neighborhood. And the new 32 apartments planned in Fairmount Properties Building C will bring even more potential customers along with the opening of the new transit center and Acorn Corner once both open.

Sales at Wild Earth have grown month-over-month since September 2012. And Nightengale suspects that he'll have even more business in the coming months to keep him and his four employees busy.

"We're on the right track overall," he said.

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