n the booming “Triangle” of North Carolina, just outside Chapel Hill in Carrboro, the Townsend Bertram & Company (TB&C) mission statement to “do business differently through a sustainable, community minded approach,” could read like something right off of a Millennial brand’s Instagram account. But folks around here know the shop goes much, much deeper than that. And with free daily events like yoga and trail running on the shop’s Facebook page and nearly 50 groups listed on TB&C ‘s website as beneficiaries of charitable donations, it’s clear that this shop has touched just about everyone in some way in this active community.
Townsend Bertram & Co. opened for business in 1988 and continues to be family owned and operated. It’s still a one-door shop, just under 5,000 square feet, and still located in the building where they first opened 30 years ago in the heart of downtown in the Carr Mill — a historic textile mill turned shopping and community space.
“Audrey Townsend and Scott Bertram co-founded the store to serve the local community with the best travel, outdoor and adventure gear,” says Betsy Bertram, Audrey’s daughter. Townsend herself still owns and oversees the daily operations of the shop. Daughter Betsy is the Brand Manager for TB&C and directs marketing, events and community outreach. Her business partners are Taylor Dansby, General Manager, and Sara Aberetheny, Buyer.
“My parents had a dream of not only selling great gear but also providing a community space to inspire adventure,” she says. And the dream lives on. “From our own brand messaging and social media to our partner brand selections and merchandising, TB&C stays true to who we are in everything that we do,” she says. “By being 100 percent authentic and investing in our community, we gain trust,” says Bertram.
Instagram aside, how do they achieve such lofty goals? “We remain dedicated to serving them with premium outdoor gear and the gold standard of customer service,” Bertram says. “Our core values of adventure, community and passion guide our decision making on every level. We take pride in focusing on making our shop inclusive and accessible for all types of explorers.” That includes strategic partnerships with nonprofits, local businesses and organizations to put on events like the shop’s annual Into the Wild: Stories of Outdoor Adventure evening under the stars. There’s also a monthly Friday adventure film series and weekly Trail Run Tuesdays that give the shop ways to connect and experience with their customers.
“By partnering with other local businesses we add value and extend our marketing reach. Our community events always focus on accessibility and inclusion, like our free all-levels monthly yoga, family camping trips, and community trash pick-ups,” she explains. “Additionally, in 2017, following the death of co-founder Scott Bertram, we established the Scott B Scholarship Fund with Learning Outside.” A custom TB&C Adventure Coffee Roast supports the fund.
TB&C is a true adventure outfitter that strives to have everything for around the block or around the world. The versatility and sustainability of our products has fueled growth over the years.”
As a mother- daughter adventure outfitter, TB&C is a rarity in the outdoor industry. Bertram says a multi-generational perspective also give them unique perspective and supports growing their customer base in distinct ways. But they battle the usual demons like every specialty shop: “Many brands outside the outdoor industry are developing athleisure apparel with appealing price points. Everyone is always offering a discount or special or free shipping,” Bertram says. “The sheer number of options online makes brick and mortar retail more challenging than ever as one-door mom and pop shops can never carry the product diversity online stores can.”
In order to compete, they’ve adapted. “We have shifted our approach to buying in this new era,” says Aberetheny. “We’ve identified preseasons as way to plan out inventory, but shifting our budget to allow for more fills and promotional opportunities like trunk shows and new brands. And our margin is up by 2 percent on the year thus far.” Footwear and lifestyle sportswear are the shop’s top selling categories, and the team sees growth in natural fibers (wool, organic cotton, hemp) versus synthetics. “Customers turn to outdoor retail for quality, environmentally friendly products that transition easily from local trails to favorite taverns, to global travel,” says Bertram.
“Given that women now control 60 percent of the wealth in the U.S., it’s an advantage to have women in leadership and ownership positions to guide the vision and customer experience,” she says. “We’re grateful our community values supporting a second-generation family business with female leadership.”