BOARDMAN -- Dennis Gartland wants his customers to be able to get away from their hectic schedules,
BOARDMAN -- Dennis Gartland wants his customers to be able to get away from their hectic schedules, relax and enjoy themselves.
Though some people may think chilling out on a quiet beach is the way to do that, customers of Gartland's Outback Gear are kayaking, hiking, biking and participating in a variety of activities that require just the right equipment and clothing,.
The young entrepreneur opened his first store in Eastwood Mall in 1996 and recently opened a smaller version in Southern Park Mall. He also sells his merchandise online.
Jason Gentilcore, a business partner, owns 15 percent of the business.
Where he began: Gartland began selling through a mail-order business while a student at Youngstown State University, where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in marketing.
"I had been strictly mail-order for a year before I opened the Eastwood store. I wanted to deal with top-of-the-line manufacturers, and one of their requirements is to have a retail store," he explained.
In addition to the retail requirement, some high-end manufacturers also insist on their merchandise's being displayed alongside certain other similar manufacturers' products. The companies also want the sales personnel to have good product knowledge.
"Everyone that works here can speak from experience when they are selling our products, plus the manufacturers come here and teach the employees about the equipment," Gartland said.
The employees, in turn, teach the customers. "Some of the things we offer are kayak demonstrations at Mosquito Lake, and we teach people the proper way to pack a backpack," he said.
The store has a huge array of backpacks. "We have backpacks for school, day hiking, long treks like the Appalachian Trail and large backpacks for traveling. It is very important that a backpack is fitted properly, and we can do that," Gartland said.
"Our Southern Park store emphasizes women on the move with jogging strollers being the anchor of the product line. The strollers are like all-terrain vehicles and they have lots of safety features like locking brakes and sealed bearings," he said.
On his own: Running his own business is not a new experience for Gartland.
"When I was in high school, I had my own landscaping company, and I always made way more money than my peers who had your typical high school jobs working for other people," he said.
Gartland has not always been in charge of his destiny. He worked for a while as a program director for the Boy Scouts at Camp Stambaugh.
"I enjoy working for other people, especially the Boy Scouts. It's a good feeling being responsible for the kids, but this business is great too.
"People are patronizing the store because they are doing something they really like. We make sure they are outfitted properly, and it's just nice helping them have fun," Gartland said.