Over the weekend, news spread of Gander Mountain closing all of its remaining stores, worrying employees and loyal customers that the longtime outdoor specialty brand would soon be no more.
But CNBC's "The Profit" Marcus Lemonis, who now owns Gander Mountain, said those reports are untrue and that at least 70 Gander Mountain locations will remain open, including at least two in the Indianapolis area.
"So Gander Mountain filed bankruptcy as you know, and about 10 days ago I bought all of the assets, all of the intellectual property, all of the trademarks, all of the leases and the Overton'sbusiness. Except for the fact that I did not buy, intentionally, the inventory that's in the stores," Lemonis told IndyStar Sunday morning. "A liquidator bought the inventory that's in the stores and they have the right to sell that inventory down and out as if it's going away. But the confusing message is whether a store is staying open or not. And ultimately we control the leases ... every single property. And my intention is to keep at least 70 open."
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The home page of the Gander Mountain website is currently a large digital flyer promoting that aforementioned liquidation sale. The ad says that after 57 years, all locations will be going out of business and that "everything must go."
When the St. Paul, Minn.-based Gander Mountain filed for bankruptcy in March, it said it would shut down 32 stores in 11 states over the next several weeks. At the time, the company's 160 stores employed 1,280 full-time and part-time workers.
Gander Mountain now has 126 stores in 26 states. There are locations in Evansville, Lafayette, Fort Wayne, Avon, Greenwood, Terre Haute and Indianapolis.
Camping World Holdings, which operates a network of stores catering to recreational vehicle owners, said this past week that it has won a bankruptcy auction of Gander Mountain’s assets. Lemonis is CEO of Camping World.
When the company made its announcement of the sale and all stores closing, Lemonis immediately took to social media to dispute the reports and announce stores that were going to stay open. In the Indianapolis area, he confirmed Sunday that the Greenwood store would be staying put.
Announcements for additional stores will be made in the coming weeks.
"We want to help the liquidators sell their inventory. We don't want to be disruptive to that, but we also don't want employees thinking that they're all losing their jobs. That's why I've been so active is because, think about it. If you have a rent payment, a car payment, a tuition payment ... you need to know what the hell is happening," Lemonis said. "I don't want to disrupt what the liquidators are trying to do, but I am definitely going to protect my people at all costs. No matter what."
Lemonis said he is working on repurchasing inventory, and surviving stores will be restocked and reopened. Stores that experience temporary closures to be restocked should be open by late summer or early fall. He added that customers who have gift cards should use them as soon as possible.
The liquidation sale mentions a gift card deadline of May 18.
All employees impacted by the closing of a Gander Mountain store will have the opportunity to interview with Camping World.
"My goal is really how many people can we put to work. It's hard enough out there right now," Lemonis said. "Even if a store temporarily closes, the bulk of the staff will remain to get it reopened. We may have to close for three weeks to get the inventory set up, repaint, retrain employees, get everyone excited and bring in some new merchandise before the start of the hunting and fishing season."
Based in St. Paul, Minn., Gander Mountain started in Kenosha County, Wis., in 1960 as a catalog retailer. The firm went through bankruptcy in the 1980s and in 1996, and filed again for in March, seeking protection from creditors while it reorganized its financial affairs.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at (317) 444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.