The Gasser family is retiring after operating A.G. Outdoor Superstore in Rutland for more than four decades.
A constant stream of new products, an emphasis on Canadian-made inventory, and a strong understanding of the market has allowed A.G. Outdoor Superstore to thrive.
In 1972, Randy Gasser started a surplus store with his mother Audrey at an intersection surrounded by orchards.
Along with a welding shop, Rutland Builders and the Dion family grocery store, it was part of a small community of businesses that would serve as the foundation of the Rutland business area.
“Every week or two, I’d take the van down to Vancouver, go to surplus dealers and product reps, and ask them for samples,” Randy recalled.
“Every week we had new stock. Then the salvage and surplus dealers slowly got into army surplus stuff, so we got into the army business and started selling tents and backpacks.”
Randy says that older Rutland residents still remember buying their first tents and backpacks in the store.
Later, Randy’s sister Lorri joined the family business—and given her passion for backpacking, the store quickly entered the backpacking industry.
Kayaking and canoeing were the next ventures for the Gasser family to explore.
“For about a decade or so, my family and I were doing canoeing and kayaking trips,” says Randy.
“My dad is in his late 80s and he still goes kayaking.
“He doesn’t want to close the store—he wants to continue on with the kayaks.”
Having founded A.G. Superstore before Rutland was part of Kelowna, the Gasser family has seen a whirlwind of change in the intervening years.
With newer technologies coming out every year, the Gassers have had to get creative in order to offer up-to-date products.
“The tools in this industry change so fast. Moving quickly enough to get a new product in—that’s a challenge,” he explained.
“A lot of the sales reps we buy from don’t have the time to learn about all the new products. The sales rep doesn’t spend three hours telling you how to sell the product, so you have to figure that out as you go,” Randy said.
Still, with persistence and creativity, the Gassers have managed to create a sustainable business in the face of changing markets.
Randy has words of both wisdom and warning for those looking to start a business:
“You have to start small. You have to put lots of hours into it. It takes research to really know what you’re selling —you have to use your inventory yourself.
“And you have to give people a reason to come out and see you, and it can’t just be price.”
Now, with their retirement at hand, the Gasser family is looking forward to having the freedom to travel.
“I want to see Alaska,” Randy said. “My parents go to Mexico every January.
“Hopefully we’ll still be able to do some kayaking, or maybe try fishing.
“Things I wanted to do earlier but didn’t have the time for.”