John McFerrin loves the outdoors. So much so that he opened his own outdoor store.
McFerrin moved from Arkansas to the Black Mountains in 1986 and eventually opened Take a Hike Mountain Outfitters in April 1999 in his new home.
“I’ve always loved hiking and camping, and I started backpacking and learning about these things in the early to mid-70s, and it kind of became a hobby and then a passion,” McFerrin said. “One day, I just jumped ship to see if I could open my own shop and never looked back.”
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Before opening his own store, McFerrin said he worked for a similar clothing store in Asheville, where he specialized in the shoe department. He describes himself as a “shoe geek”.
“That got me hooked on being a professional outdoor shoe guy,” says McFerrin. “I’m a bit of a geek. I have a knack for getting the right shoe for different types of feet and then wearing the right size. My first love is outdoor shoes.”
McFerrin said he is proud of his store’s success, especially after surviving the 2008 recession.
Still, owning a business can be difficult, McFerrin said.
He said he likes being his own boss and setting his own schedule, but he has found it difficult to staff Take a Hike, especially in recent years.
“I work a lot now,” McFerrin said. “Probably more than ever, I have to remind myself that when I’m not in the store, I’m going out and doing what I love, which is hiking and camping, which keeps me grounded and balanced.”
McFerrin said it’s hard not to see too far into the future when it comes to staffing and the economy, or whether he’ll ever get a paycheck, but he still loves being a business owner.
While he said he had thought about expanding in the past, he wasn’t particularly interested.
“I’m very content,” McFerrin said. “It’s the only location we have and I’ve considered expanding to other areas, but I think it’s a perfect fit for this small town in the area.”
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He said he wanted to focus on providing Montenegro residents with the outdoor gear they need, and he could do that from where he is now.
The store has one of the best selections of socks in western North Carolina, as well as the largest selection of Black Hills-themed merchandise like T-shirts and hats, McFerrin said.
He said he was pleased with the performance of the store and his family.
“After 23 years in business, we’re here,” McFerrin said. “I think it’s been a success. I’m still married to my first and only good wife. I think it’s been an amazing success for her and I have two wonderful kids who are amazing. We Still here, I have a great family and that’s my success.”