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'You don’t have to be a customer': Denver outdoor store takes community mission beyond new, used gear

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Sep 05, 2023

DENVER — Tents. Hiking boots. Backpacks. Water bottles. All things you’d expect to find for sale at an outdoor store. On the surface, that's what FERAL looks like. But the closer you look, the more layers you’ll find.

“So, at the most base level, we're just a local outdoor store,” owner Jimmy Funkhouser said of his local shop on Tennyson Street in Denver.

The uniquely named FERAL is split into two parts. On one side of the store are brand new outdoor items, including some brand names.

“You name it, we’ve got all the backpacking gear, all the camping gear,” Funkhouser said, showing off some of the new stock.

Then there’s the other half of the store. It’s marked by a giant yellow neon sign.

“Over half of our square footage in the store is dedicated to used camping gear, backpacking gear, outdoor clothing, you name it,” he explained, pointing to a $20 pair of snowshoes and a $15 set of trekking poles.

Adding even beyond that, the store also offers rental gear and has a gear repair team that fixes tents and clothes for customers.

"We're a truly full-service shop,” Funkhouser said.

But there is one other big thing that sets this small, local business apart. And it’s written right on the front door of the store.

Denver outdoor store takes community mission beyond new and used gear

“This is a safe place. Need to use the restroom? Help yourself. Need a drink of water? The fountain is in the back. Need a snack? Just ask, we keep them on hand. Need a place to rest for a bit? We have hammocks upstairs. You don’t have to be a customer to make yourself right at home. Welcome to FERAL.”

Funkhouser and staff put that into place as a thank you to the community that has supported them and helped them move into the prominent space they currently occupy on Tennyson Street. It’s a mission they hold themselves to, in part, by having it on a prominent place on their front door.

“We’re here to just do the best we can every day for the people that we feel we need to serve, which is our neighbors and our local community and occasionally somebody visiting,” he said.

It’s an idea that the owner recognizes is counter to the "for paying customers only" mantra that so many other businesses follow. But with the goal of getting people outside, how this store makes that happen is just as important to them.

“I think every little act of kindness probably changes the world a little bit, but I don't think that's our goal. Our goal is just to feel good about what we're doing and hope people feel good about coming to see us,” Funkhouser said.

FERAL has a location on Tennyson Street and one in Idaho Springs.