by Anne Pyburn Craig | photos by Roy Gumpel
On the fine and beautiful line where work meets serious play, you’ll find Kenco Outfitters. Need something to keep you warm and comfy? They’ve got choices. Want to take up a new sport or locate expert-level gear? You’ll find friendly expertise that’ll make your purchase feel like the great decision that it is.
The Kennedy kids decided to collaborate in 1982, when their father lost his job, and formed a company distributing industrial safety products. From there, Kenco grew organically by popular demand.“We didn’t have a store; we were traveling around to different factories,” remembers Bill Kennedy. “We were constantly asked for outer work clothes and footwear. We had a mail order business, and people would show up at our house to buy things at all hours. We had inventory stashed everywhere. We were bringing people into the living room and selling them gloves.”
In 1986, the Kennedys opened retail space on Rock City Road in Woodstock. It turned out there was a lot of common ground between hard work and hard play, and they started carrying “outdoor lifestyle” brands that turned out to be crowd pleasers. The space became filled to overflowing with fun things, and they chose to build on a hilltop beside Route 28. It was an inspired choice, but Kenco’s success is really about responding to customer desires and creating an atmosphere that’s a good time in itself. “Most of our employees are also friends; we’ve been working together for years,” Kennedy says. “Everyone is a specialist in some section of our store and enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits. We’ve tried to create a unique shopping experience that includes a family-friendly and low-key atmosphere with free hot cider at the door—we are definitely not trapped in the big-box mentality of customer relations!”
Kenco just keeps growing. “In 2010, we purchased Catskill Forest Sports, which introduced snowboarding, skiing, and archery gear. In 2013, we partnered with Orvis to offer fly fishing products, an extremely popular but underserved sport. From being an industrial safety gear store, we’ve become an outdoor recreation and work store. We’re passionate about these things. It’s so hard not to want to bring that to where you work.”
Satisfied customers helped to shape the company’s destiny. “We try to stay current on all of the gear trends in the outdoor market,” says Kennedy. “What’s obsolete? What’s the newest, hottest product? What colors are ‘in’? But the information we get from our customers is much more valuable: What colors and products do they want? Do they wish we sold a new sport that we don’t carry?
“Humans were meant to be outdoors,” Kennedy says. “There are so many simple and fun things you can do out there. I love to work with positive, enthusiastic customers who are excited about outdoor activities. We want to be here for years to come, so we try to base decisions on how we can grow and still make our oldest customer feel like they’re visiting old friends. “We try not to take ourselves too seriously; we want to be the best outdoor store in the Hudson Valley, but not at the expense of losing our identity. We partner with local not-for-profits like the Forsyth Nature Center, Catskill Mountain Club, and Hudson Riverkeeper, and some national ones like Soles for Souls.”
It’s just who these Kennedy kids are. It works. A major expansion this year will add an interactive indoor archery range (“Very fun!” says Kennedy), as well as expansions in the kayaking and fly fishing departments. They’re introducing running and athletic footwear, complete with state-of-the-art running and hiking simulators, so you can give your new kicks a test drive. Whatever your spring fever is craving, the odds are good that Kenco has your cure.
1000 Hurley Mountain Road,