YOUR HOMETOWN — Harrisonburg: Downtown Going For A ‘Walkabout’

Outfitter Brings A Bit Of The Outback To City's Core

Posted: April 24, 2013

Daily News-Record

Walkabout Outfitter’s general manager, Wendy Stanley (right), helps customers Darlene Secrist (left) and Cheryl Lavy, both of Harrisonburg, on Tuesday. The store, located at 90 N. Main St., opened last week. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
Customer Daniel Conn of Harrisonburg leaves Walkabout Outfitter, a new outdoors store, after visiting it for the first time Tuesday afternoon. The new downtown store opened April 15. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
Walkabout Outfitter employee Aaron London gives change to a customer shopping Thursday afternoon. The new downtown store opened April 15. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
HARRISONBURG — The staff at one of downtown Harrisonburg’s newest storefronts, Walkabout Outfitter, don’t just talk the talk about the Valley’s prime outdoor space, they hike and bike it.

So when customers come in looking for the right equipment to hit the trail or spend a night under the stars, employees at the specialty shop have the know-how to guide visitors to the right products, managers say.

“You get that personal feel,” the store’s manager, Paula Benson said. “We’re going to be honest about products. A lot of the stuff in outdoor specialty shops is very specific, so that product knowledge is important.”

The store, which opened last week at 90 N. Main St., carries a mixture of “soft” and “hard” items, from the clothing and footwear needed for outdoor activities to the essential hardware like sleeping bags, tents and backpacks.

While all the big brands are available, such as North Face, Patagonia and Mountain Hardware, the shop also carries smaller suppliers like Kuhl, Olukai and Prana, along with specialty items, general manager Wendy Stanley said.

“When we choose a lip balm, we choose it because it’s made in Michigan and it’s organic,” Stanley said. “If you can’t get it anywhere, we want to fill that need.”

The Harrisonburg location is the fourth Walkabout Outfitter store.

The business’ first location opened in Lexington in 2005 and now has two locations in Roanoke. The enterprise is owned by a husband and wife duo, Kirk and Tina Miller, who live outside Lexington.

“We felt like Harrisonburg had a culture of being active in the outdoors,” Stanley said. “It seems like we were a good fit for that.”

Although Harrisonburg has seen two other outdoor stores announce their impending closure in the past year — Wilderness Voyagers and Function 4 Sports — Benson thinks that the store’s supplies and its location will foster success.

“Harrisonburg’s downtown renaissance has been so successful [and we] really felt like Harrisonburg is growing and needed more retailers downtown,” Benson said. “This is a huge outdoor area and with the success of other shops like Shenandoah Bicycle Company, [the owners] just felt like it was just a really good fit.”

Harrisonburg residents Cheryl Lavy and Darlene Secrist, who were perusing downtown Tuesday said they were impressed with what they saw their first time in the store.

“I live not too far [away], so I can walk down and look around,” said Lavy, 62. “It’s nice to see a store like this. I think we’ve needed something like it downtown.”

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or

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