Step inside Cabela's latest cathedral to the back country and you are confronted by a life-size diorama: A whitetail deer pursued by two ravenous-looking wolves.
The deer appears to have no chance. The guess here is that the same can be said for the typical sportsman who wanders inside the 110,000-square-foot emporium for all things outdoors, which is set to open May 1 at the Christiana Mall in Newark, Del.
If you love guns, rods or just anything camouflaged, expect to have your wallet field-dressed by the time you finish wandering the myriad retail trails in the region's first Cabela's outlet.
The store will be the chain's 54th, and the closest to Philadelphia. Until now, the Cabela's aficionado had to travel 75 miles to Hamburg in Berks County. It's about a 45-mile trek from Center City to Newark and the mall.
And there certainly are Cabela's aficionados. With good reason. This is no simple sporting goods store. Cabela's outlets are known for their elaborate outdoors displays and visual lures along with acres of floor space devoted to hunting, fishing and camping.
"We are a family store," says Ernie Gorog, who works at the new store as an "outfitter," or sales clerk. "We try to have something for everyone."
And so they do, creating a retail space that is a bit of a cross between a natural history museum and a mountain lodge.
To start with, the store has more mounted fish, birds and mammals than Ted Nugent's trophy room. Along with the ill-fated deer and its pursuers, there are grizzly bears, black bears, elk, caribou, red fox, coyotes, wild turkeys, all manner of water fowl, tarpon, trout and tuna.
Gorog said there were 225 "mounts" in the store. (Which is small potatoes compared with the Rogers, Minn. Cabela's, which boasts close to 400 animals on display.)
There are two 8,000-gallon freshwater tanks in which live trophy-size brook trout, bass, perch and catfish swim about, a mesmerizing distraction for kids while dad or mom peruse the shotgun aisle.
Guns, of course, are among the chain's biggest sellers. In 2013, hunting equipment accounted for 48 percent of the chain's $3.6 billion in revenue.
As befitting such a prized asset, the firearms section is anchored by the "Gun Library," where artisan pieces are kept. If you have $13,999.99 to spare, you can walk away with a 1967 Belgium-made Browning Superposed shotgun, made of lacquered walnut and gun-grade steel with hand-engraved woodland scenes of ducks, grouse and pheasants.
In all, the store has about 2,700 guns for sale, according to John Massey, the gun library manager.
In comparison, the store has about 1,000 rods - reel, fly, surf - in its fishing section.
Deep in the section is a small display of fishing flies - selling for as little as $1.99 each. Seemingly insignificant, the flies, for Cabela's, are like votive candles in the Vatican.
In 1961, Dick Cabela bought 3,000 hand-tied flies for $45. He had hoped to sell them in his family's Nebraska hardware store. When that failed, he tried placing an ad in a newspaper in Casper, Wyo. No success.
An ad placed in Sports Afield magazine, however, turned the trick and Cabela began a mail-order business that has grown to a sporting goods empire.
Cabela died in February at his home in Sidney, Neb., which remains the corporate headquarters of the chain. He was 77.
BY THE NUMBERS
Stores in the chain, including the one
at Christiana Mall.
Square feet of space in the new store.
Guns for sale.
Gallons in each of the two freshwater tanks where live trophy-size brook trout, bass, perch and catfish swim around.EndText