Outdoors retailer breaches Richmond market for East Coast hub

5.11 Tactical will open in the Spring Rock Green shopping center. (Mike Platania)

An apparel retailer that got its start in the California wilderness in the 1960s is heading to Richmond’s Southside.

5.11 Tactical is preparing to open at 7100 Midlothian Turnpike in the Spring Rock Green shopping center, adding to its 35 stores nationwide.

The company, which makes and sells only its own brands of clothing and accessories for outdoors enthusiasts, first responders and the military, was founded by rock-climbing pioneer Royal Robbins in the Yosemite Valley.

Robbins, who often climbed with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, first made pants out of heavy canvas that he called the 5.11 Pant, after the scale on which climbing routes were graded, with 5.11 being the most difficult.

The pant gained in popularity among climbers in the ’70s and ’80s, and word eventually spread. Jeff Roberts, 5.11’s VP of retail and merchandising, said in the ’90s, 5.11’s pants caught on with first responders and military professionals.

“Next thing you know, we had a relationship with the FBI National Academy … We went from an outdoor rock-climbing company to a professional law enforcement and military gear and apparel company,” Roberts said.

5.11 continues to be a provider for many first responders, and has gone back to its roots in recent years, making more workout and outdoor clothing and gear, including a modernized version of the original 5.11 pant.

“We’ve come full circle and gone back to the consumer that’s looking for comfortable, dependable gear,” Roberts said.

Operating initially as a mail-order service, 5.11 in the last few years began opening retail stores and now has several dozen nationwide, including two in Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia. The company had been considering a Richmond store for about four years.

Apparel at the retailer’s Chicago location. (5.11)

At 8,000 square feet, Roberts said, the Richmond location will be its biggest in the state.

“It’ll serve as a hub on the East Coast for our brand. The Richmond store will be a flagship retail destination, and it’ll be able to warehouse and serve other stores on the East Coast,” he said.

5.11 is planning a soft opening later this month and a grand opening in June. Roberts said the company’s opening ceremonies aren’t your traditional ribbon cuttings.

“We actually build breach doors for training for SWAT teams, so we’ll bring one of our big steel doors out,” Roberts said. “Rather than a ribbon cutting, we’ll drop the door in front of the store and have a local law enforcement or first responder dignitary breach the door.”

The Richmond location likely will open with eight to 12 staff. Roberts said 25 percent of the firm’s retail employees are active-duty military or veterans.

The local store is part of a larger expansion by 5.11, during which it plans to open 15 to 24 stores each year through 2019.

Roberts said the retailer is bullish on the Spring Rock Green shopping center. Susan Jones of Colliers International represented the company in its lease.

“I believe it’s going to help anchor that center and rejuvenate that area. There’s some stuff going on already, but we like to go into a location like that, where we can help drive additional commerce in the center,” Roberts said.

Just across from 5.11’s future home is Stonebridge, a mixed-use development on the site of the former Cloverleaf Mall. Last month, Richmond Volleyball Club’s new facility opened in the development.

5.11 Tactical will open in the Spring Rock Green shopping center. (Mike Platania)

An apparel retailer that got its start in the California wilderness in the 1960s is heading to Richmond’s Southside.

5.11 Tactical is preparing to open at 7100 Midlothian Turnpike in the Spring Rock Green shopping center, adding to its 35 stores nationwide.

The company, which makes and sells only its own brands of clothing and accessories for outdoors enthusiasts, first responders and the military, was founded by rock-climbing pioneer Royal Robbins in the Yosemite Valley.

Robbins, who often climbed with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, first made pants out of heavy canvas that he called the 5.11 Pant, after the scale on which climbing routes were graded, with 5.11 being the most difficult.

The pant gained in popularity among climbers in the ’70s and ’80s, and word eventually spread. Jeff Roberts, 5.11’s VP of retail and merchandising, said in the ’90s, 5.11’s pants caught on with first responders and military professionals.

“Next thing you know, we had a relationship with the FBI National Academy … We went from an outdoor rock-climbing company to a professional law enforcement and military gear and apparel company,” Roberts said.

5.11 continues to be a provider for many first responders, and has gone back to its roots in recent years, making more workout and outdoor clothing and gear, including a modernized version of the original 5.11 pant.

“We’ve come full circle and gone back to the consumer that’s looking for comfortable, dependable gear,” Roberts said.

Operating initially as a mail-order service, 5.11 in the last few years began opening retail stores and now has several dozen nationwide, including two in Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia. The company had been considering a Richmond store for about four years.

Apparel at the retailer’s Chicago location. (5.11)

At 8,000 square feet, Roberts said, the Richmond location will be its biggest in the state.

“It’ll serve as a hub on the East Coast for our brand. The Richmond store will be a flagship retail destination, and it’ll be able to warehouse and serve other stores on the East Coast,” he said.

5.11 is planning a soft opening later this month and a grand opening in June. Roberts said the company’s opening ceremonies aren’t your traditional ribbon cuttings.

“We actually build breach doors for training for SWAT teams, so we’ll bring one of our big steel doors out,” Roberts said. “Rather than a ribbon cutting, we’ll drop the door in front of the store and have a local law enforcement or first responder dignitary breach the door.”

The Richmond location likely will open with eight to 12 staff. Roberts said 25 percent of the firm’s retail employees are active-duty military or veterans.

The local store is part of a larger expansion by 5.11, during which it plans to open 15 to 24 stores each year through 2019.

Roberts said the retailer is bullish on the Spring Rock Green shopping center. Susan Jones of Colliers International represented the company in its lease.

“I believe it’s going to help anchor that center and rejuvenate that area. There’s some stuff going on already, but we like to go into a location like that, where we can help drive additional commerce in the center,” Roberts said.

Just across from 5.11’s future home is Stonebridge, a mixed-use development on the site of the former Cloverleaf Mall. Last month, Richmond Volleyball Club’s new facility opened in the development.

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G. Joseph Myers
G. Joseph Myers
4 years ago

Chesterfield County is not Richmond. It is noticeable that you did not mention the county, which is where the store will be located and which will get the taxes generated, rather than the city. And it is remarkable that you did not notice the other operations that now fill this once struggling shopping center. This was a section of town that the county once worried about as Cloverleaf Mall declined, but which is now seeing a sharp resurgence due to the county’s investment in revitalizing this area.