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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by William Chan
Brooklyn hardly falls into the category of the wild frontier, but camping gear shop Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co. is now catering to outdoor enthusiasts with a selection of tents, pocketknives, Filson bags, and Patagonia outerwear on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street. The merchandise ranges from legit utilitarian to those just looking to dress the part ("Brooklyn clearly understands the vibe of that," store owner Gene Han explains), and includes a range of gifts that could easily find a home in both your apartment and knapsack.
We spoke with Gene and his fiancé Lillian Kye about how the neighborhood's responded to the influx of camping enthusiasts, what there plans are for stocking womenswear, and their favorite places to pitch a tent.
You've been open since early April. How's the reception been?
It's been very positive. The neighborhood has taken to it very well. Right now we're trying to expand to the rest of Brooklyn and New York.
What made you pick this spot in particular?
I'm from Brooklyn originally, and there have been some really huge changes along Atlantic Avenue. I noticed a lot of cool new shops opening, and of course there's the park pretty much right next door.
How did you go about getting this location?
We were actually thinking about a different location further down, but I was just walking along and getting to know the area and saw this empty spot. There wasn't a "For Rent" sign, but there was a phone number. We found out it was already taken, and that the landlord was in a pre-deal with somebody else. I just told him what kind of ideas we had for the store, and he loved it. He ended up picking us instead.
Who do you think your typical customer is? Is it the seasoned camper, or someone just popping in to check out the store?
It's a lot of neighborhood folk. It resonates with them. A lot of them were outdoors people in the past, and the store inspires them to go out again.
Let's talk about the merchandise that you carry that wouldn't be at your typical REI or EMS. How do you go about selecting those other lines?
We felt like there was a huge demand and need in Brooklyn for an outdoor store, because everyone was trekking to REI or Paragon. In Brooklyn, we just have to do it different—a little more elevated. So as far as outdoor gear, we try to carry more top-of-the-line items. And we definitely have a fashion approach, like outdoor-inspired fashion. A lot of our products are domestically made, and we really look for pieces with quality and a compelling story and a good history behind them.
Do you have a favorite item or line in the store right now, or is there anything that's doing particularly well with your customers?
We have well-know lines like Barbour and Filson. Filson is a customer favorite, but we have smaller, newer independent brands. Jungmaven is hemp-made tee shirts, and that's been doing really well. Brands like Apolis and Taylor Stitch are great—made in the USA, full collection cut-and-sew menswear lines that are doing very well.
As far as your camping gear goes, how intense does it get? Does it cap off at tents?
We do have all the mainstay brands. We have Sea To Summit coming in, we have North Face and things like that. They all move, and there's definitely a place for it with the customers. We also have brands like Snow Peak, which is higher-end outdoor equipment and gear. People aren't even using it all for just camping. Like this bamboo chair that we have, people are buying that for their homes. Our customers find things like that interesting, and find a place for it other than just the outdoors.
You have a lot in here that's unisex, but do you think you'll ever introduce women's?
We started out as a menswear store, but a lot of wives and mothers are coming in to shop for gifts, but they definitely want to also get something for themselves. Right now that happens to be a lot of the menswear, they're looking for smaller sizes. For fall, we're getting a lot of smaller sizes in, and then we're going into women's-specific buys for the spring. Lillian is going to be helping with those buys.
Do you think that a second location is in the future, maybe somewhere outside of the city?
That's definitely in the long term plan. We like bring that sort of rural environment to a city, so it would definitely be in another urban environment. For now we really love Brooklyn.
Do you think as a whole Brookyln knows how to camp?
There are definitely some goods campers in Brooklyn for sure. We're learning a lot from our customers as well. This whole look, it's kind of a trend now to get in touch with the outdoors, and Brooklyn clearly understands the vibe of that.
What's your favorite place to camp?
Gene: The Hudson Highlands State Park.
Lillian: My first camping experience was with Gene at Sylvania Tree Farm.
Okay, time for the lightening round. Sunrise or sunset?
Northeast or Northwest?
Gene: Northeast—really, Northwest? I don't have that much experience in the Northwest, so Northeast for me.
8am or 8pm?
Gene: I'm more of an 8pm.
Whiskey or tequila?