ATLANTIC CITY — It is an outdoor wonderland — indoors.
The Bass Pro Shops store opening April 15 at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway promises to be a visual treat as well as a retail hub for aficionados of the great outdoors.
Giant, hand-painted murals splashed across the store walls intricately depict the woodlands, waterways and wildlife of New Jersey. Muralists visited the Pine Barrens, the Delaware Water Gap and other locales to help them recreate panoramic vistas in artistic splendor.
“As people come into the store, we want to invite them to the outdoors,” one muralist, Denny Burkhart, of Wrightsville, Pa., said Thursday while he was painting scenes of birds and fish.
In another part of the store, a two-story faux waterfall, topped with fake trees and decorated with stuffed bears, deer and even a moose, will serve as the backdrop for a 13,000-gallon freshwater aquarium stocked with the types of fish found in local rivers and lakes.
Entering the store’s main lobby, shoppers will pass through an imaginary marine warehouse featuring an old 35-foot wooden boat once used as a fishing trawler in Washington state.
Eric Clements, the store’s general manager, said Bass Pro Shops wants to recreate an outdoor experience to appeal to not only the hunters, anglers and other nature lovers who will be regular shoppers, but also to people who are simply curious about the decor.
“Because of the visual and entertainment aspects of the store, we will draw both outdoors people and tourists,” Clements said Thursday during a media tour that gave a sneak preview of New Jersey’s first Bass Pro Shops outlet.
Clements announced that the store will open at 6 p.m. on April 15. Offering 85,000 square feet of retail space, the Bass Pro Shops site will be an anchor of Atlantic City’s retail center at the expressway entrance into town. It will occupy the block of Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Atlantic, Arctic and Mississippi avenues next to the Tanger Outlets The Walk shopping and entertainment district.
For now, the store is a frenetic scene crawling with hard-hat construction workers amid the din of hammers, saws and mechanical lifts. About 100 construction workers are building it. When it opens, Bass Pro Shops will employ about 200 workers. A jobs fair for the store in January drew long lines of hopefuls, including many former casino workers who became unemployed when the Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza casinos closed last year.
Corey Solomon, of Margate, is one of the locals who landed a job with Bass Pro Shops. He will be the manager of the fishing department. Solomon, who grew up at the Jersey Shore, said he hopes to use his knowledge of local waterways and the ocean to help customers find fishing hotspots.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we have some of the greatest outdoor fishing in this area,” Solomon said. “It’s endless.”
This will be the first Bass Pro Shops store to open in New Jersey. Currently, the closest one to South Jersey is in Harrisburg, Pa. Bass Pro Shops has announced plans for another New Jersey store in Sayreville, Middlesex County.
The privately held company declined to disclose any proprietary information about the Atlantic City store, including sales projections and marketing strategy.
Atlantic City officials have repeatedly stressed that the Bass Pro Shops store is emblematic of efforts to broaden the city’s appeal beyond casino gambling by adding new retail, dining and entertainment attractions.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency that oversees Atlantic City tourism and development projects, contributed a $12.3 million loan to help finance the store’s estimated $15 million construction cost. Bass Pro Shops will also benefit from an additional $11 million over 11 years as part of a sales-tax rebate program, CRDA spokesman David Zuba said.
The store’s prominent location off the main entryway into town means that Bass Pro Shops will implement a parking fee. Clements explained that the store does not want to use the lot as a revenue producer, but must protect its 225 parking spaces for its shoppers.
Bass Pro Shop customers who spend $50 or more in the store will be able to park for free. Those buying at least $25 of merchandise will be charged a $3 parking fee. Shoppers who are under the $25 threshold will be charged market rates for parking, which will fluctuate depending on the time of year.
Bass Pro Shops is said to be the first retailer in Atlantic City to sell firearms, including handguns, rifles and shotguns. It will also have an indoor pistol range, which is sealed off from the rest of the store. Clements said there will be strict security procedures for all firearms, including locks and mechanical bars to safely store them away.
Firearms being carried through the store en route to the pistol range will have to be equipped with trigger locks. Only people who possess a New Jersey firearms permit will be able to use the pistol range, which will be managed by two retired police officers, Clements said.
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