One of Whitney Eldridge’s favorite things about Gearhead Outfitters is their unparalleled commitment to customer satisfaction. “They take it to a level I’ve never quite seen before,” she says. “I don't think that you get that a lot of places anymore, that dedication to being the most helpful, kind-hearted servant that you can be.”
But that’s not the only reason she loves her job as Gearhead’s Marketing Director. What impresses her most? Gearhead’s passion for supporting their local communities (which include THREE Northwest Arkansas towns: Fayetteville, Bentonville, and Rogers!). Read on to find out more!
Can we start with the history of Gearhead Outfitters?
“Our owners are Ted and Amanda Herget. Ted started the business in 1997. He had gone to college, took some time off and took a trip to Colorado. While he was there, he fell in love with it. He worked in a gear shop there for a while and when he moved back, he wanted to bring that kind of lifestyle to Arkansas.
He was in school for accounting and thought he would go the accountant route but ended up getting some bicycle gear and things like that and selling it out of a friend's parents’ living room.
Eventually he opened up a 700-square-foot store on a little street in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It was a little bitty shop until he finally opened up what is now our flagship store and home office on Main Street in downtown Jonesboro.
From there, we subsequently opened more and more across the state until we finally branched out to Shreveport, Louisiana, Springfield, Missouri and then our most recent store opening has been in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
So now we have 11 stores across four states. Three of those are in Northwest Arkansas: Rogers, Bentonville, and Fayetteville.”
How did you end up getting involved?
“I started here in 2015 as the Digital Marketing Coordinator. A friend of mine was the Marketing Director, Ashlyn Cornell, and she needed someone to help her on the digital side of things. I came on and took over managing the website and inventory, and then also all of the social media and visual advertising and things like that.
About a year into it, Ashlyn - who had also already been working a lot in H.R. for the company - moved over full time into H.R. So H.R. and team development is now what she does. And then I moved up into the Director of Marketing position, and have been doing this job for three years now.”
Were you into the Gearhead lifestyle or was the marketing aspect what interested you?
“I went to school for Communications & Marketing, so the marketing aspect definitely drew me in. That and then the story of the brand and its community aspect.
I was born and raised in Arkansas, I've lived here my whole life, so I knew about Gearhead already. I was familiar to a certain extent with the brand and its story, and I had shopped at one before. So I had a working knowledge of the company.”
Why was the community aspect important to you?
“One thing that I think sets us apart as a business and that I love getting to participate in for marketing is the non-profit giving. Gearhead is really passionate about giving back to the communities and keeping money and resources local.
We have our own non-profit called Gearhead Gives. We give upwards of thirty thousand dollars a year to local nonprofits in all the markets we’re in. We give back and partner all year long with organizations in those communities.
We really cherish those partnerships so that we can keep the money and resources that our community gives to us, in the community. Every time you shop at a local Gearhead, it’s going to payroll so that you’re supporting people who live in that community, you’re providing jobs and food and insurance and well-being for them.
And then also, every time you shop with us, we’re able to turn around and host events that are give-back events. I think every single event that we’ve done as long as I’ve worked here has been a benefit event where we say a percentage of sales from this time, day or product is going to go back to an organization in our community.”
Well I was going to ask what makes Gearhead different, but you pretty much already answered that!
“Ya, it’s definitely that community involvement aspect! With every community that we go into, one of the very first things we do is look for organizations we can partner with. That's actually one of the marketing initiatives that I give our managers, because I only want to partner with the things that our teams are passionate about. If we don't do that then it's not genuine and it's not supporting the things that our staff love.
One thing that you'll see in almost every store that allows pets is shop dogs. We've got dogs in almost every store because our teams are passionate about that. So we wind up partnering with a lot of humane societies.
Another one is veteran organizations. Several of our employees are veterans, and then also several of our employees’ family members are veterans. So that’s another one that is really important to us. We just had a military gratitude event in November. It's something we do company-wide – military gratitude to support veteran organizations.
So community involvement, the ways that we partner with local organizations – it's strategic, it's important, but above all we're passionate about it.”
Is that something that stems from Ted and Amanda?
“Yes, absolutely. Even before I started working for Gearhead, the nonprofit was in the works. From the very beginning Ted has said, ‘If you take care of the community, the community can take care of you.’
Our mission is our customers and helping them live active, fulfilling lifestyles. We want to be the one to provide the proper equipment, the proper education, and the best service they've ever had. Those are the three things that we are passionate about putting into every community that we go in to.”
It must be so empowering to work under leadership like that.
“It definitely is, it's empowering and challenging. Ted and Amanda are very driven, focused, and giving people, and they push their team to be that way too. And we really appreciate that.
Ted still comes in and works on the floor, so that's fun to see. He knows everybody. He loves being in the stores. He loves being on the floor and talking to our customers. Most of the time you will find him at a store somewhere no matter where he's going.
Amanda is the same way, she actually works part-time in our stores. And they both frequent our events. Almost every event we have, they make it a point to come and show up and be there. So their involvement with and passion for the community is what has led the entire company in that direction for sure.”
Isn’t it fun to support local businesses who support local? To explore more local Northwest Arkansas businesses (and get rewarded for it!) be sure to take a peek at our online guide to locally-owned business in your community! Or download the free Towny app for a free on-the-go guide!