Cabela's co-founder Richard Cabela, recognized for opening mega-store in Berks County, dies at 77

Co-founder of outdoor outfitter that draws millions to Berks

SIDNEY, Neb. - One of the co-founders of outdoor outfitter Cabela's has died.

Richard Cabela died Monday at his home in Sidney, where the company is based, the company said. He was 77.

The company that sells outdoor gear and sporting goods got its start humbly in 1961 when Richard Cabela bought $45 of fishing flies in Chicago.

When the flies didn't sell quickly at the family's furniture store, Cabela started selling them through the mail with his wife and brother, Jim.

That led to the development of the Cabela's catalog and eventually the firm with $3.6 billion revenue and 50 retail stores across the United States and Canada, including the chain's largest store at Interstate 78 and Route 61 in Tilden Twp., Berks Co., just outside Hamburg.

"Outdoorsmen and women have lost a true friend, a man who improved their lot by putting them first, by working to provide what they wanted and needed for their hunting and fishing adventures," said Tommy Millner, Cabeal's chief executive officer. "He pushed for research and development in every outdoor field. Dick always looked out for the customer and if he couldn't find a vendor to provide what he wanted, he pushed Cabela's to design and make it. Because of that passion, the Cabela's brand and its products are iconic throughout the world."

The northeastern United States' first and Pennsylvania's only Cabela's, near Hamburg, opened its doors to customers in September 2003.

Earlier that year, on Feb. 26, 2003, Dick Cabela was the guest of honor a Berks County Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast at the Santander Arena in downtown Reading, where he was recognized by then-Gov. Ed Rendell and others for selecting Berks as the site of his company's newest store, which doubles as a tourist attraction by drawing millions of people to northern Berks County each year.

"Half of these will come from out of state to visit Cabela's," Dick Cabela told the audience that day, "and we estimate these three million out-of-state visitors will spend more than $225 million while in Pennsylvania on services such as entertainment, food, lodging, gas and the like."

The number of people visiting the Berks Cabela's each year has since risen to seven million, and the store has led to other development in the area, with the addition of a nearby shopping center that includes a Walmart and a Lowe's and numerous other stores and restaurants.

Dick Cabela served as chairman of the board until June 2013, when he transitioned to chairman emeritus. Jim Cabela then became chairman.

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