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Area landmark to reopen as outdoors store

Work is underway on the renovations of the former Deer Town, the historic tourist attraction "on the road to Itasca." Plans call for restoring the exterior to its original appearance in the late 1960s. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Smokey Hills Outdoor Store manager Brad Sharp, left, and Todd Payne are planning a grand opening over fishing opener. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 2

For decades, Park Rapids Deer Town captured the imagination with the creatures that roamed the territory.

Now the Smokey Hills Outdoors Store, opening its doors on or before May 1 on the Highway 71 north location, will open possibilities to adventures galore, with an extensive inventory of sporting goods.

The store covers the gamut of north woods "necessities." And the Bum Steer Food Court will satisfy the appetite.

The initiative began with seasonal recreational items - fish houses, Amish- built playground equipment and docks - displayed in Osage and Park Rapids.

"But we were twiddling our thumbs when they were out of season," owner Todd Payne said. "This makes it a year 'round business," the owner of Smokey Hills Wilderness Retreat said of the extensive inventory.

The grounds will feature quality consigned boats, RVs, campers, hunting shacks ("which can double as mother-in-law quarters") and other recreational equipment.

The Ice Castle fish houses, playground equipment, aluminum docks and lifts and rent-to-own outdoor buildings will also be available at the site.

Step inside to find an ever-changing inventory of hunting and fishing items, hunting apparel, such as waders, and miscellaneous outdoor equipment.

Payne and store manager Brad Sharp will be buying overstocks from national sports chains and selling the products at 40 to 60 percent off retail.

They will accept consignments, shotguns and decoys, for example, and take trades on guns and other items.

Anticipated inventory will include ammunition, bows and accessories, knives, live bait, binoculars and scopes, camping gear and clothing and footwear.

The store will offer fishing spool rewinds, black powder reloading supplies, custom arrows and repair of bows.

"And we're working on a 3-D archery course in the back," said Payne, who hopes to add an archery specialist to the staff.

Kujawa and Landquist's handcrafted log furniture will be featured at the site.

"And art and knick knacks will fill every nook and cranny," Payne promises.

Plans call for a weekly online auction, Payne firming up an affiliation with a service that has 80,000 registered bidders.

The Bum Steer Food Court, with Mark Bridge as chef, will feature fresh baked cinnamon rolls, pies and cookies and homemade buns for sandwiches.

Ice cream cones will be on the menu and plans call for outdoor grilling Memorial Day, Labor Day and the 4th of July, along with tent sales.

Caribou coffee (appropriate for an outdoor store) will be served as well as soft drinks and snacks.