March 13 marks the 20th anniversary of one of Moab’s beloved local businesses, GearHeads, the one-stop outdoor shop for local and visiting outdoor adventurers alike.
Opened on March 13, 1998, by brothers Greg and Doug Kennedy, GearHeads has grown from a small 1,000-square-foot space to the current storefront that is five times its original size.
Coming from humble beginnings, the business started after two-thirds of the Kennedy brother trio moved to Moab from Portland, Oregon. The two initially planned to buy a restaurant as their next business venture, because both of them had been previously involved in the restaurant industry. However, a gut feeling on Doug Kennedy’s part led the two to open an outdoor gear store – something neither of them knew much about at the time. Meeting the demand for a dependable gear store in Moab, the brothers opened GearHeads and used their determination and creativity to get it off the ground.
“Our first year open, we didn’t have a lot of cool stuff, so we’d search for stuff from small companies because bigger companies didn’t really want to sell to us,” owner and co-founder Greg Kennedy said. “One night, we were evaluating an electric glow stick, but it ended up being a major disappointment which gave Doug an idea that was the impetus for creating LazerBrite.”
Just one example of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Kennedy brothers, LazerBrite is the double-ended high-power flashlight assembled in Moab and sold in GearHeads that has snowballed into a separate business in itself, also run by the Kennedy brothers.
While many stores in Moab offer a variety of products and tools for the outdoors, GearHeads is a favorite among some locals for its originality and expansive selection of more than 100,000 items in stock.
“They were the first,” local customer and business owner Dan Mick said. “Everybody else has come to Moab and tried to emulate what they are … Other people think, ‘What does GearHeads sell? Yeah we can sell that,’ but they’re the original.”
In its beginnings, GearHeads offered a variety of gear, as well as a variation on the customary shopping experience for outdoor gear.
“We used to play only Pink Floyd when we first opened,” Greg Kennedy said. “We still have customers come in and say, ‘Where’s the Floyd?’”
In addition to the unique music, the Kennedy brothers spent their free time at the store partaking in niche sports like knife throwing.
“Back when it was just Doug and I, we brought in a big piece of wood for when we were slow and we would practice throwing knives when we were waiting for customers,” Greg Kennedy said. “Eventually we started getting busy and weren’t getting anything done because we were throwing knives all day.”
Unrecognizable from its early days, when customers were few and far between, GearHeads is now seldom without a customer at any given point in the day, and its staff has grown to around 12 employees during the visitor season.
Luke Malatesta has been an employee for 11 years and finds his job at GearHeads to be rewarding because of the staff and the ever-changing customer base.
“I really like meeting new people,” Malatesta said. “We see lots of different people from lots of different walks of life … No day is ever alike because of that. You have your daily tasks but when you’re just talking with people it makes every day different … and our staff has really great camaraderie.”
To maintain a consistent shopping experience over 20 years, personal customer service has always been at the forefront of their priorities, according to Greg Kennedy.
His customers agree.
“One of the best parts of going into GearHeads is the personal service,” Mick said. “You can go in and ask them for something and they don’t just tell you where it is … Someone comes out from behind the counter and shows you where it is and helps you find it.”
With some location changes coming in 2019, the Kennedy brothers and their employees plan to keep expanding and offering the same products, just as they have since their beginnings.
“There is going to be a brand-new building, 60 to 100 feet from where we are now,” Greg Kennedy said.
Details on the move and the new space are limited, but the brothers are quick to reassure customers that GearHeads will remain the same outdoor gear hub that it is today.
To celebrate 20 years of providing Moab’s outdoor enthusiasts with the largest selection of gear in town, GearHeads will be having sales from now through Sunday, March 18, ranging from 20 to 50 percent off select items; it will be holding drawings for over 100 items from Thursday, March 15, through Saturday, March 17.
GearHeads celebrates two decades of outfitting Moab’s outdoor enthusiasts
“One of the best parts of going into GearHeads is the personal service … they don’t just tell you where something is, someone comes out from behind the counter and shows you where it is and helps you find it.”
When: Through Sunday, March 18
Where: GearHeads, 471 S. Main St.
For more information, call 435-259-4327