Summerville reels in lunker

Cabela’s expects to open its first Charleston-area store in late 2016.

A big-name sporting goods merchant jumped off the bench Thursday and into the Charleston outdoor-gear retail game.

After a year of scouting out the area, Cabela’s said it will open its first Lowcountry location next year in Summerville.

The Nebraska-based chain expects to start construction on the 82,000-square-foot store this year and open in the fall of 2016.

It will be within WestRock’s Nexton development, near U.S. Interstate 26 and Highway 17A, between Exit 199 and the future Exit 197. Site clearing has already begun, a WestRock spokesman said.

“Cabela’s has been interested in Summerville and the Greater Charleston area for some time now,” CEO Tommy Millner said in a statement. “We have a loyal customer base established in the region and an opportunity to reach thousands of additional outdoor enthusiasts who either call the area home or visit to shop and enjoy the outdoors. South Carolina has provided great support to Cabela’s through our catalog, website and existing stores, and we expect the same to be true for our Summerville location.”

Cabela’s said the store will employ about 175 full-time, part-time and seasonal workers. It will be the chain’s third location in South Carolina. It opened in Greenville in 2014 and in Fort Mill earlier this year.

“We are very excited that they are coming to Nexton,” said Ken Seeger, president of WestRock Land and Development. “Cabela’s announcement marks an important new phase for Nexton, not only as a significant job-creating center, but also a shopping destination.”

Seeger said WestRock, formerly MeadWestvaco Corp., intends to lure other major retailers to Nexton’s town center site, and he credited Berkeley County for revising its restrictions on Sunday sales for paving the way for Cabela’s and others that may now be interested.

County Council voted during the spring to suspend the Colonial-era blue laws that restricted retail sales of certain items at certain times on Sunday.

“Obviously, there were several businesses ignoring the blue laws,” county spokesman Michael Mule said.

He said the change wasn’t made for one particular business, but it was something Supervisor Bill Peagler wanted to do to make the county more business-friendly.

“It assisted the company in making the final decision to come to Berkeley County, “ Mule said. “We are pumped.”

Seeger said Summerville has always been considered the gateway to the Charleston Metro region. But with Volvo’s announcement in May to build a $500 million auto plant near Ridgeville, and with thousands of new homes planned west and northwest of Summerville, the area is no longer on the fringe of development, he said.

“It is infill,” Seeger said.

He said Cabela’s decision to build in Nexton came after a year of discussions. The retailer explored other Lowcountry sites, Seeger said.

Cabela’s said in a statement that its new South Carolina store will be built in a new-format layout “designed to offer customers an immersive outdoor experience with log construction, stonework, a mountain replica, dozens of wildlife displays and museum-quality taxidermy mounts, vintage outdoor photos and memorabilia, hand-painted murals, an aquarium and an indoor archery range.”

Other amenities will include a cafe, fudge shop, gun library, bargain cave, boat shop and educational seminars and product demonstrations.

Cabela’s explored building a North Charleston store several years ago.

It will join an increasingly crowded market for sellers of hunting, fishing and other outdoor goods. Gander Mountain opened in the Promenade at Northwoods shopping center in North Charleston last year, and Field & Stream, an offshoot of Dick’s Sporting Goods, plans to open Aug. 27 near Tanger Outlets. Dick’s recently opened a new store in Mount Pleasant new Bowman Place shopping center.

Also, Cabela’s rival Bass Pro Shops announced plans in late 2013 to open at the Ingleside development near I-26 and U.S. Highway 78. Construction has not yet started.

John McDermott of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.

Contact Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.