Jon and Sandra Wynn have been operating Gear Up for Outdoors since 1987, and their philosophy – to support the community that supports them – has been firmly in place since opening day. One of their favourite ways to do this is by mixing promotional events with fundraising.
For eleven years running Gear Up has hosted the Spread the Warmth Winter Coat Drive in support of community organizations like Shelter House, Precious Bundles and Grace Place. From early October through mid-December, Gear Up works with partners to incentivize and promote a great trade: bring them a clean, gently-used winter coat for an adult or a child and they’ll discount your purchase of a winter coat or jacket by 15%. Not only that, but you’re entered to win prizes with every donation.
The event helps to raise awareness of poverty and homelessness throughout the city and provides winter wear for the people who need it most and can afford it least. Last year Gear Up accepted 723 adult coats and jackets, 256 kids’ jackets and 335 hats, scarves and mittens. All of the items were distributed at their charity partners’ locations to anyone in need.
Come spring, Gear Up will be hosting their annual “Tent and Everything Else Sale.” Formerly hosted at the Central Av. baseball field, this event now lives at the Lakehead U Hangar, where they’re guaranteed lovely spring weather no matter what’s going on with our crazy climate. At this event, visitors can climb in and out of over 100 tents, sit in camp chairs, check out cook stoves and kitchen accessories and generally inspect, hands-on, anything they might want to add to their camping adventures this summer. Typically Gear Up partners with local charities like Our Kids Count to host activities for kids and raise funds for the organization. Beyond raising cash for Our Kids Count, this also gives the organization a chance to meet people in person and form new personal connections with community members.
Like many other retailers in Thunder Bay, the Wynns have felt the impact of the recent changes to employment standards – mostly in the cost of their inventory, since they’ve always paid their staff above minimum wage. Today they employ between 10 and 12 staff and offer their customers both online shopping and storefront experiences, letting you browse and purchase merchandise at home or come in to try on in the store before buying.
In addition to the work they do with charity partners, the Wynns like to practice what they preach, confining their personal spending to other local businesses. “You have to show your customers and your staff with your own actions how important it is for community members to support one another,” Jon says, and cheerfully describes the way he and Sandra prefer to support locally-owned businesses for pretty much every purchase. “They [the owners] and their staff live here and they buy from me,” he told us. “We want to support the families that run businesses like George’s and the Maltese Grocery. We get our meats from local places like Superior Foods or Country Fresh Meats & Deli,” he says, “and keep those profits local.”
Learn more about Gear Up for Outdoors at www.gear-up.com, and be sure to #ChooseTBayFirst when you’re gearing up for camping season!