Casual Adventure is Closing
The Arlington institution has been outfitting outdoor enthusiasts for decades.
Casual Adventure, a destination for weekend warriors, nature enthusiasts and intrepid travelers, is closing its store on Washington Boulevard. Store manager Eric Stern says the business has plans to reopen elsewhere in Northern Virginia in late summer or early fall, with a focus on corporate, league, military and government sales.
“It’s the right time and the right move,” says Stern, a fourth-generation manager of the family business. “The retail landscape is changing pretty dramatically—every day you read about not just little stores, but massive stores closing. A lot of our vendors are selling directly to consumers, and it’s becoming harder and harder to be profitable.”
Casual Adventure started as a grocery store and later became an Army/Navy supply store called the Surplus Center in 1955. The owners spent decades building the shop’s inventory of outdoor specialty clothing and gear, eventually changing its name to Casual Adventure after Timberland and Rockport, two of its most popular brands, said they would no longer be carried by retailers with “surplus” in their name.
The retailer has served some noteworthy customers over the years. Former first lady Laura Bush once stopped in to buy a protective, packable Tilley hat to take on a family trip, and her Secret Service officers later returned to shop for themselves. The store also outfitted mountaineer Andrew Towne, who went on to survive an avalanche that killed 19 climbers at Mount Everest’s base camp in 2015.
Stern says that Casual Adventure’s strength has always been its personal approach to customer service. One staff member calls the store “Cheers without the beers,” Stern says. “We know customers by name, and we can hang out and listen to stories of their most recent travels.”
On Wednesday, the store will kick off an “end of the era” sale that will last “as long as it takes to get everything out the door,” Stern says.
He acknowledges feeling bittersweet about shuttering the 3,800-square-foot shop, which sells Patagonia jackets, North Face sleeping bags, Leatherman tools and law enforcement gear. But it’s exciting, too.
“There’s that element of getting near the edge, and do you jump off?” he says. “In this business, especially, you have to look forward, not back.”