Boosting Minnesota's image with outdoorsmen worldwide
"Anybody know of a mail-order company called Herter's?" Thus begins a query to the Kountrylife.com website. The writer continues, "They sold gear for hunters, guides, trappers, etc. I bought a skinning knife from them some 40 years ago, still have it, and it's a good one. I can't remember now if they were in the USA or Canada. Like to get a catalogue if they are still around." Many people responded to this query, including other owners of Herter's gear, a former Herter's employee, and several people who directed the writer to Cabela's website, which features products with a Herter's label.
Like many other long-gone stores, Herter's, Inc., a sporting-goods store once located in Waseca, Minnesota, lives on through its products. But the quantity of goods still in use is only one indicator of Herter's influence on Minnesotans and on the sporting-goods industry. Nominator Doug Lodermeier explains: "What singular experience has affected Minnesota sportsmen more than any other from both a cultural and a business perspective? Standing in the showroom of Herter's, Inc., of Waseca.
"This Minnesota institution (and the worldwide catalog that promoted it) changed hunting and fishing in the state in three dramatic ways: It caused an explosion in the popularity of these activities by making them even more attractive and accessible. It put Minnesota on the map as a sportsmen's paradise. And it dramatically changed the economics of retail throughout the state.
"Whether you were ten or one hundred, a pilgrimage to Herter's captured every sportsman's imagination through the latter half of the twentieth century. You'd step through the doors to find every hunting and fishing item known to man under one roof. Though we take this concept for granted now (thanks to Cabela's, not to mention Wal-Mart), it was absolutely revolutionary in the mid-1930s.
"Of course, it wasn't just the showroom. Herter's catalogs reached nearly every corner of the globe--peddling not only a massive array of products, but subconsciously promoting Minnesota as the hub of sportsmen's knowledge and innovation. (Would that famous Time magazine cover with Wendell Anderson have happened without Herter's? I doubt it.)
"Herter's is not without controversy. While sportsmen firmly approved of its innovative approach to retail, the existing 'Mom and Pop' shops did not. Like all big-box retailers, Herter's was the beginning of a model that is still being perfected today and has caused a rapid decline in smaller, family-owned stores.
"To put it plainly, hunting and fishing has always defined Minnesota, and today, every Minnesotan knows Cabela's. What they don't know is that Cabela's wouldn't exist without Herter's."
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