Going for the three-peat: Franklin outdoor store opens two new locations in 2018

When Rob Gasbarro and Cory McCall met in 2008, their friendship formed around hiking and biking the mountains surrounding Franklin, NC, their weekdays filled by burgeoning careers in civil structural engineering and real estate, respectively.

Then came the recession. Things got bad and then worse. By 2010, the careers that they’d planned to retire in, provide for families with, seemed headed for an early end.

“Long story short, one day he and I just met for lunch and we were like, ‘Let’s just open an outdoor store,’” Gasbarro recalled. “‘What’s the worst that can happen? We starve and it doesn’t work and we’re unemployed? We’re already facing that anyway.’”

Now an anchor store on East Main Street in Franklin, Outdoor 76 was born — or at least conceived — as a rough business plan scribbled on the back of a lunch napkin at Sunrise Restaurant.

McCall and Gasbarro, ages 36 and 42, both live in Franklin, though they considered setting up shop elsewhere. But the more they investigated, the better Franklin looked. It’s within two hours of a list of cities with a combined population of 14 million people. It’s an Appalachian Trail town, and located in a county with a bounty of outdoor opportunities, including 18 peaks over 5,000 feet.

“We’re starting to see that manifest now,” said Gasbarro. “Franklin is growing.” So is Outdoor 76. In the past six months, the company has opened two new stores, in Cherokee and in Clayton, Georgia.

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