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Mercury Article

Thanks to the Manhattan Mercury for this great article that ran last week about our upcoming changes.


Staying power 

New owners aim to keep Pathfinder philosophy intact

Bryan Richardson 
he Pathfinder will change ownership next month after 40 years. Bill and Erma Riley, who opened the Pathfinder in 1975, are selling the company to Lisa and Russell “Holly” Hollenbeck, owners of another outdoor gear company, Alpine Shop.

Headquartered in Kirkwood, Missouri, Alpine Shop has four stores in Kirkwood, Missouri; Chesterfield, Missouri; Columbia, Missouri; and O'Fallon, Illinois. The company started in 1973.

The new owners will officially take over the store in early November.

The Pathfinder recently celebrated 40 years with an anniversary sale in September.

Bill said they planned a few years ago to retire and sell the Pathfinder when it reached 40 years of business. Bill turns 75 next month, and Erma is 71.

“Operating with high integrity and customer service allowed us to operate for a long time,” he said. “The community has been really good to us. It’s important that people are able to continue to access the type of products we have.”

Bill said a representative from a store supplier told him how the Hollenbecks might make a good match for the store because of similar philosophies.

“It’s not a big box chain,” he said. “We’re feeling really good to turn this over to them in a seamless way.” 

Lisa said she and her husband were hesitant when first contacted by Bill. 

“Our first thought was, 'You gotta be kidding,'” she said. “It’s six hours away.” 

When the Hollenbecks chose to come to Manhattan to check out the Pathfinder, Lisa said she told Russell she had a feeling they would either instantly say no or love it right away. 

“We felt like the culture was very similar to our own,” she said. “It seemed like we could have walked into one of our own stores.” 

While the ownership is changing, Bill said the name will stay the same. “They respect the 40 years of success by The Pathfinder and support and credibility that’s here,” he said. 

Lisa said there won’t be a lot of changes when they take over in November. 

“We’re going to take it slowly,” she said. “We’re going to keep the same staff. We felt that everybody shared our same approach to the customers.” 

In the spring, Lisa said the store will test out adding another kayak brand as well as bringing in stand up paddle boards. 

“We can try some products that have been successful in our other stores,” 

she said. Erma said Alpine Shop has done more with paddle sports than the Pathfinder has done in the past. 

“I think the area here can be excited in the upkick of events that will be offered in the river trail areas,” she said. 

Bill said he and Erma plan to stay in Manhattan. “We lived in Colorado for a while and moved back to Manhattan deliberately to be a part of the community,” he said. 

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