Cody, Travis and Bob McCain

Written by Sherry Lucas | Photographed by Joe Ellis

When Buffalo Peak Outfitters opened in 1986 in Highland Village, the store was 1,500 square feet, the outdoor industry was in its infancy and owner Bob McCain was the tender age of 28 with a retail background in sporting goods.

McCain’s store is older now than he was then — approaching 32 years and covering 9,100 square feet. Responding to customers’ needs and staying ahead of trends have driven its growth.

He started with clothing and a bit of footwear and gradually included gear. Expansions came in 1990, in 1994, in 2000 and in 2010. Office art and decor speak to his passions — fishing, mountains and Alaska. Arrowheads are mementos of growing up on a farm in Alva, Miss. Still, “I was not a big backpacker when I got in this business,” McCain says. He approached it from a business standpoint.

He’s done a fair amount of backpacking and traveling since. “Both my boys, Cody and Travis, have both done the same, so we all share a love for the outdoors.” Cody, 26, and Travis, 23, are both involved with Buffalo Peak — Cody in marketing, design work, social media and some buying, and Travis on the shop floor, in sales.

“Having grown up, running around the store, It’s hard to imagine something that’s not Buffalo Peak,” says Cody. “I’ve been here for four years this summer, and I’m loving it.”

When most Mississippi folk think outdoors, they think hunting and fishing, but that concept is expanding.

“The trend I’m most happy to see is, people who are using the natural resources that we do have here … and exploring those.” McCain says, as well as traveling. The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, skiing out West, Canada, Alaska and parts more far-flung are destinations Buffalo Peak has helped prep folks for.

“If we can make sure that they’ve got the right gear and they have a better trip, that’s very rewarding,” McCain says.

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Cashier Lyndsey Hill helps customer Terri Dooley of Benton at Buffalo Peak Outfitters. Looking on, center, is employee Eddy Warren.

That reward now wraps in a second generation. He is proud of his sons’ confidence and self-sufficiency; each has made a solo road trip to Alaska. “It’s been really cool in the last few years, since they’ve finished school and have come back and worked.”

Cody concedes he benefited “from being born, post-this store being opened,” recounting camping as a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout, road trips and backpacking with his wife, Ann Claire. “It just encourages that lifestyle as a whole.”

Even as the face of retail changes, McCain says, “We still want to be that local shop” that people feel comfortable coming to for answers and expertise.

Buffalo Peak’s direction now is a mix of old and new. There is the gear, trusted knowledge and customer service that has earned loyalty, particularly in LeFleur East. The new? Unique merchandise that may not be strictly outdoors, but fit for Buffalo Peak — Garmin watches or the Secrid wallet, for example.

“We’re constantly redefining ourselves as a retailer, and trying to make sure that we carry product that is not only in the sweet spot of what we do, which is camping and backpacking and travel … but also these things that people use, that will enable them to get out and do those things.”