Everything in here is about getting you out there.
Or, if you really want to know what this is all about, Matt Otepka said, you can think of his Lynwood shop, Bainbridge Island Outfitters + Depot, as, “Me personified in products.”
The combination outdoor gear shop/homesteading and preparedness depot opened last November, bringing together all of Otepka’s myriad interests and passions in one stylish store: fishing, camping, hiking, biking, disaster preparedness, homesteader skills and funky gadgets.
By offering guest lectures and workshops on a variety of nature lover and survivalist topics, as well as gear rentals — bikes, stand-up paddle boards, fly fishing gear and snow shoes — and partnering with other like-minded, outdoorsy entrepreneurs, Otepka said he hopes BIO+D will become a hub for adventure seekers and allow him to act as a kind of ambassador for visitors and locals alike looking to experience the more natural side of Bainbridge Island.
“That’s totally what I want to be,” he said. “That’s my dream.”
It’s not a dream that came together overnight, though.
“I wish I could say I have that kind of vision,” Otepka said. “But, once I got underway, it was more, ‘How do I differentiate?’ Then I came upon the idea [that] you just fill gaps, that’s how you differentiate. What’s not being done right now? What do I like to do? And I like to go out and fly fish. I like to get in the water and I like to get in the mountains and go on adventures.”
Adventure is the goal, but independence is the product, Otepka said. Whether he’s giving customers the gear and knowledge to seek out their own memorable experiences, putting them in touch with experts and guides, or stocking products from local, indie craftspeople, he’s all about the unique regional pride and personal freedom that’s ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest.
“I think I’ve done a really cool job of curating physical retail products in here,” he said. “And that was the goal, to have a shop that’s different from any other shop on the island.
“I’ve got a lot of unique products [and] I wanted to do that same thing with the intangible offering of the experience and the expertise.”
First aid kits and emergency radios sit within sight of Kampuchea-making kits and self-watering planters on the shelves of BIO+D. Cool growlers and canteens, flip-flops and towels rest beside bikes, boards and emergency food rations.
Everything is premiere quality first and foremost, Otepka said. You don’t want to find out something doesn’t work right out in the woods, or during a real emergency, after all.
Most of the wares are made in America too — if not even more specifically locally.
Otepka never worked in retail before, he said, having spent his career in public relations and marketing. Now, with two employees and a shop to run, he said he’s going with his gut — and it’s been so far so good.
“The true definition of success to me will be when we become that destination where people come when they want answers,” Otepka said. “They can come here for information or products, just cool and unique products. But they can also come here for information about going out there somewhere and having fun.
“If that idea germinates and spreads, then we’re successful,” he said. “It’s got to be sustainable, for sure. But we didn’t do this to get rich. Nobody’s getting rich in retail — unless you’re Amazon.
“This is more a kind of lifestyle.”
Bainbridge Island Outfitters + Depot is located at 4664 Lynwood Center Road NE, Suite 125. Call 206-317-6736, email info@bain bridgeoutfitters.com or visit www.bainbridgeoutfitters.com for more information. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.