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Business booming after fourth generation’s first year running almost 100-year-old Victoria store

Erin Boggs took over Robinsons Outdoor Store in 2022, navigating the pandemic while in transition

For nearly 100 years, Robinson’s Outdoor Store has been helping Greater Victoria’s adventurous spirits get the gear they need to thrive in some of the world’s best forests, mountains, and oceans.

Throughout its history, the store has evolved, starting as a bicycle sales and repair shop in 1929, and then evolving into the general sporting goods store it is today, but one thing has remained unchained. It remains owned and operated by the Robinson family.

On March 1, 2022, fourth-generation Robinson Erin Boggs officially took over the business along with the first non-Robinson co-owner Matt King, from her mother Gayle Robinson, though the transition started in 2017.

“It’s been quite an exciting and amazing ride, and now we are really starting to put our own stamp on it,” said Boggs of the first year running the store. “The highlight which rings true from 1929 to today is the foundation the business is set on – to provide customer service, value, and knowledge to the community.”

Boggs said she never really saw herself stepping in to continue the family legacy, moving to Montreal at 17 to pursue a career in social work. But as she returned to Victoria and started working at the store under her mother to help pay off student loans, she started to realize how much she enjoyed being in the store.

READ MORE: Fourth generation Robinson to take over family business

At the same time, Gayle was starting to look toward the future for the store and reached a point where she faced three options. She could close the business when she retired from it, sell it to a new set of owners, or start succession planning for the next generation.

“I realized I love to hike, I love to travel, and I love to help people, and I could still help people through the store, it just looks different,” said Boggs. “It means a lot to be that next generation, and to think of the opportunities the previous generations made sacrifices and worked hard to provide. I never imagined I would be doing this today, but to watch my mom turn this business around as a female in a male-dominated industry and how she operated with integrity and being true to the community … it means so much to be carrying that forward now.”

While the store remains in good shape and business is strong, Boggs said the five-year transition period and first year of complete ownership was not without its challenges. COVID especially came out of nowhere, forcing the store to shut down unexpectedly, and forcing the family to completely rethink how to run the business.

“That experience gave me so much confidence because we had to make really tough decisions without a lot of information. But we did it well and ended up coming from a lot of financial loss and a scary time to recovering and doing really quite well.”

With the first year of ownership behind her, Boggs continues to look to the future and how she and King will put their mark on the business. Questions have been asked about introducing online shopping or opening a second location, but Boggs said her focus is to stick to the core values of the business in one brick-and-mortar store.

But while the core of the business will remain the same, some things are evolving. More and more community events are being planned to help support the customer base which has made the business what it is today, and Boggs’ interest in social work is beginning to show its influence as well, with the store recently hiring its first neurodivergent employee.

READ MORE: Boxing Day expected to be lined up out the door at Victoria outdoor store


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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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