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Longtime Greenville water sports retailer closing showroom

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Customers crowded the showroom of Overton's water sporting goods store in Greenville on Monday for a closeout sale by parent company, Camping World. The store will officially close Sept. 15, company officials said.


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Outdoors enthusiasts crowded a major Greenville-based supplier of watersports, fishing and boating accessories and supplies Monday to take advantage of a closing sale before the retail location permanently shuts its doors on Sept. 15.

Overton's, located 111 Red Banks Road at the intersection of Evans Street, is being closed by its parent company, Camping World, based in Bowling Green, Ky. Customers still will be able to shop for goods online. Company officials did not respond to several requests for more information.

Signs outside the store said “All must go” and “Everything 25-50 percent off.” Shoppers lined up at the registers, arms filled with merchandise.

Overton's was founded in 1975 by V. Parker Overton, who began selling water skis out of a local grocery store in Greenville. The company had grown to become the world's largest watersports and marine accessories dealer through its catalog and internet operations when Overton sold it in 2003. Its main warehouse is in the Indigreen Corporate Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway north of the Tar River.

Overton now is in the commercial real estate business and also co-founded Select Bank & Trust Co. in November 2003. He also sits on the Greenville Utilities Commission board. He retains ownership of the building and the company’s distribution building at Indigreen.

Overton said he was not informed ahead of time by Camping World of the retail showroom’s closing. He said the distribution center will remain in operation.

The businessman whose father established a grocery store on Jarvis Street in Greenville in the 1940s — since converted into ECU’s Technology and Innovation Center — looked back on decades of the store carrying his family’s name as a visible landmark in the community.

Overton’s specialized in boating supplies, with the building on Red Banks used primarily as a showroom for those goods, Overton said. He later added a more complete line of sporting goods.

Overton said he has mixed emotions about watching his family name come off the building.

“We rendered a service to the Greenville community,” he said. “I developed the sporting goods line as a way to keep the employees busy during the winter months. It didn’t set the world on fire, but it did pretty good. The people of Greenville still can buy all the store products just by going online, and have them delivered right to their house.” 

The earlier switch to predominantly online sales meant fewer job losses resulting from the closing, but Camping World officials will not say how many people worked at the store.

Overton said he does not know yet what he will do with the Red Banks building.

“It’s a great location for a retail operation and I’ve had a lot of interest shown from many people,” he said.

Shoppers at the closeout sale, happy about the price markdowns, were nevertheless a bit disappointed to see the showroom closing. 

“I saw the announcement signs as I was driving by a couple weeks ago; it was kind of a shock,” shopper Howard Stallings of Greenville said as he stuffed the back of his SUV with a cooler, tables and other camping supplies. “I knew they had changed ownership not too long ago, but they’ve been here for a long time and I didn’t expect them to be closing. 

“I would rather that they stick around because they’ve been a part of Greenville for a long time,” Stallings said. “I’m definitely disappointed about that.”  

Overton’s was included in a March 2017 Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy reorganization action filed by Gander Mountain, now a Camping World subsidiary, which has owned Overton’s since 2003 and operates in 26 states.

At the time of the bankruptcy, Gander Mountain spokesman Jess Myers said there were no plans to close Overton’s, but the action was instead an attempt to retain the company’s assets as it pursued a buyer for both brands. 

“Despite aggressive actions to improve the efficiency of the company's retail operations and support functions, the underlying financial impact from underperforming stores and unproductive, excess inventory hampered efforts to create a sustainable path forward,” a Gander Mountain official said in the 2017 bankruptcy announcement. 

In May 2017, a liquidation company bought all 160 Gander Mountain retail locations. Camping World, the largest U.S. recreational vehicle dealer, subsequently purchased the Gander Mountain Brand and its customer database. 

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.