by Paul Westman
"Eventually, the Cabelas of the world—and millions of others as well—are going to have to grow up."
The founders and majority owners of catalogue retailer Cabela’s are brothers Richard N(eal) and James W(illiam) Cabela. Dick (pictured, left) is Chairman of the privately-held company, Jim (right) is CEO. Cabela’s is headquartered in the tiny town of Sidney, Nebraska.
“Cabela” is a Czech (Bohemian) surname; the Cabela family was Catholic.
James Cabela (1869-1937), the grandfather of Dick and Jim, immigrated to the small Nebraska town of Brainard, situated near the Union Pacific Railroad, in 1884. His wife’s maiden name was Barbara Tuma. A small businessman, James Cabela served on the Village Board. Throughout the 1920s Cabela operated the James Cabela Hardware and Furniture Store, at times in conjunction with his sons Louis E. (born 1902) and A(lbin) C(harles) (b. 1906). The Cabela family left Brainard in 1932 for the small Nebraska town of Chappell.
Louis Cabela married Eleanor Sobotka in 1932, and A. C. Cabela married Marion Brady in 1935. (A. C. and Marion became the parents of Richard and James Cabela.) In 1932 James, Louis, and A. C. Cabela opened the Cabela Brothers Hardware and Furniture Store in Chappell.
By 1961 Dick was working in his father’s furniture store in Chappell; his brother Jim was a banker in Denver. Both men were avid hunters and fishers. While attending a furniture convention in Chicago that year, Dick bought some fishing flies with the intention of reselling them. He placed a small classified ad in a Wyoming newspaper and several national outdoor magazines, offering the flies “free” except for the cost of postage.
Orders were soon pouring in from around the country, and Dick and his wife Mary (who eventually had nine children), working from their kitchen table in Chappell, sent out a mimeographed sheet listing other outdoor items for sale with every order. By 1962 a small backyard shed was needed to house their inventory. The following year Dick persuaded his brother Jim (a lifelong bachelor) to leave banking in Denver and join him in operating the rapidly growing business.
The Cabelas had tapped into a powerful source of unmet demand, and exploited it cannily. During the first few years, Dick, Mary, and Jim drew no salaries; instead, all available cash was plowed back into the business. Jim Cabela lived on his National Guard pay and at his parents’ home.
Cabela’s underwent relentless physical expansion. For the first three years the kitchen table continued to serve as the corporate office, although temporary typists were hired to assist with catalogue preparation and mailing. In 1964 the brothers moved into the basement of their father’s Chappell furniture store. The next year the company filed papers of incorporation and moved across the street into an empty U.S. Department of Agriculture building. In 1968 it moved again, this time into the Chappell, Nebraska American Legion Hall. There, in a corner of the floor, it set up a small retail sales operation—a modest harbinger of the huge, impressive showroom stores that were to open in the following decades.
Cabela’s transferred to the old John Deere building in Sidney, Nebraska from Chappell in 1969, again due to the pressing need for more space. Initially only the first floor of the building was needed; Cabela employees utilized an upper floor as an archery range. But during the 1970s Cabela’s mail order, warehousing, shipping, and retail operations expanded to fill each empty floor in turn, until finally the entire building was occupied.
In 1986 the brothers purchased the former Rockwell International plant in Kearney, Nebraska to house their 24-hour a day telemarketing operations. “The real work of the company,” Jeffrey Covell has written of those years, “was conducted in Kearney, where Cabela’s ‘800 Service Center’ was located. In two large rooms, 150 operators stood by the telephones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, receiving an average of two million calls a year during the early 1990s. During the peak holiday periods, the 800 center’s telephone staff doubled, occasionally taking as many as 35,000 telephone orders in a 24-hour period.”
Interestingly, the company has recently installed recording and quality monitoring systems purchased from Israel-based NICE-Systems in all five of its Nebraska call centers. This enabled “its quality assurance department to utilize the voice and screen recordings to accurately identify call center agents’ strengths, as well as the skills that needed improvement.” Hopefully the Israeli systems don’t have invisible (and illegal) “back doors” built into them enabling aliens to spy upon the company and its customers, as similar systems manufactured by other Israeli firms and sold to Western governments, including the United States and the Netherlands, reportedly have.
According to the company’s website, “in January 1998, employees moved out of the original Sidney headquarters building into a new 120,000-square-foot world headquarters. The two-story building, which is large enough to fit a football field on each floor, houses offices for nearly 500 employees. But even that facility was quickly outgrown. To accommodate the increased growth in all areas of the company, construction of a new, state-of-the-art addition more than doubling the size of the world-headquarters building was completed in the summer of 2002.”
Today, Cabela’s publishes more than thirty catalogues and specialty books a year, mailing 90 million of them to all 50 states and 125 foreign countries.
The company is also noted for its combination retail-wildlife center-education showrooms “in Sidney and Kearney, Nebraska; Owatonna and East Grand Forks, Minnesota; Prairie du Chien Wisconsin; Mitchell, South Dakota, Dundee, Michigan and Kansas City, Kansas. Future plans call for the opening of two new retail stores; one located in Hamburg, Pennsylvania to open in late 2003 and a second in Wheeling, West Virginia opening in 2004.” The catalogue and retail store businesses are supported by massive distribution centers in Sidney, Nebraska; Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and Mitchell, South Dakota. A fourth distribution center is slated to open in Wheeling, West Virginia next year.
In 1999, company sales were $222 million; by 2001 they had climbed to $875 million. Dick and Jim Cabela own 80 percent of the company; New York City-based J. P. Morgan Partners, the private equity arm of banking giant J. P. Morgan Chase, owns 20 percent, purchased for an estimated $20-$30 million in 1995.
Dick and Jim Cabela, nearing retirement, and J. P. Morgan entertained bids for the company in 2002. Many offers were received, including one from fellow Nebraskan Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, but were rejected as too low. Presently the Cabela brothers are said to be in the process of selling more of the firm to J. P. Morgan Partners and McCarthy & Co., an Omaha investment firm, as part of a leveraged recapitalization in which the brothers will nevertheless retain voting control. The move is reportedly a prelude to an initial public offering planned for 2004.
Superficially, Richard and James Cabela appear to epitomize the American success story. Through hard work, sound business practice, and discovering and satisfying customer demand, they built a firm known and loved by millions worldwide.
Unfortunately, like so many White Midwesterners, the Cabela brothers’ moral principles and sense of responsibility are superficial at best. If private leafleting by a White employee against unconscionable non-White immigration, or association by such an employee with other Whites who oppose the genocide of their people, can indeed harm Cabela’s reputation, the brothers have a responsibility to ask themselves how such a situation ever developed in this country in the first place—When did community survival and freedom of speech become “hate crimes”? Who made them “hate crimes”? Why is it that only White survival is a “hate crime”?—and then, once they knew the unsavory answer, be willing to do what was necessary to change things.
Ninety percent of Cabela’s customers are male, mostly between the ages of 35 and 60, and reside in rural or suburban communities. All of the company’s growth has been due to its White clientele. The work force that built the company was also exclusively White. Cabela’s enormous success is unquestionably a function of its Middle American customer and employee base.
Eventually, the Cabelas of the world—and millions of others as well—are going to have to grow up and assume responsibility for setting things right. Unless or until Whites develop backbones, and begin to stand up for their fundamental rights as noisily, uncompromisingly and combatively as Jews and other non-Whites advance exclusively their greedy interests, America’s darkening trajectory will continue to accelerate.
For Further Reading
Cabela’s Company History
“From Tying Flies to Flying High” (December 1998)