March 2, 2022

It's No Joke! Alpine Shop Purchased 43 Years Ago on April 1, 1978

It's No Joke! Alpine Shop Purchased 43 Years Ago on April 1, 1978

Every year around April Fools' Day, we like to relate the story of how the modern Alpine Shop came to exist. It's not really a funny joke, it's just that it actually happened on April 1. Here's the story of the Mapmaker, the Vintner and the Fugitive:

One of the original signs from Mooers Alpine, Alpine Shop's predecessor.

In 1973, Bob Mooers–a local St. Louis climber, Army Map Service employee, and author of “Finding Your Way in the Outdoors” (still available used on-line)–convinced Chouinard Equipment, a growing climbing brand at the time, to open him as a dealer. So, Mooers started a climbing shop – in a small room upstairs from the home wine-making shop he was moonlighting on the side from his Army Map Service work. It took just one month for climbing to outsell wine-making, which ended up being abandoned when Mooers moved the climbing shop to a new, larger space.

Five years later, "Mooers Alpine" was thriving, but Mooers was looking to sell and move to the Northwest.

Russell "Holly", and Lisa Hollenbeck, co-owners of Alpine Shop, on a recent trip out West.

Enter Russell "Holly" Hollenbeck to the picture. A 45-year-old customer of Mooers' originally from the Northwest, Hollenbeck had come to St. Louis to work in the city's banking and finance industry. However, a change in leadership at the company he worked for had soured him on the field, and he had taken to considering himself a "fugitive" from corporate life. While skiing at Snowbird in Utah during the winter of 1977, Hollenbeck broached the subject of purchasing Mooers Alpine with his family. On April 1, 1978, "Mooers Alpine" became "Alpine Shop" with Hollenbeck as the new owner.

43 years later, climbing is still at our core, but over the years we have added gear, clothing, events and clinics for almost every type of outdoor enthusiast, from backpackers, hikers, campers, paddlers, and cyclists, to snowboarders and skiers, at four locations in Missouri and Kansas.

Alpine Shop Kirkwood's collection of historic climbing gear, cleared from big walls in Yosemite National Park by friend-of-the-Shop Rich Copeland. Copeland died in a fall in Yosemite in 2014 and the outpouring of tributes was truly amazing.

Those 43 years have been good to us and to our vendors, as well. Recently, at the 2019 Grassroots Outdoor Alliance summer meetings, Alpine Shop was named National Retailer of the Year, an honor we are truly humbled by and continue to strive to earn in the eyes of our customers.

Our first supplier, Chouinard Equipment, ended up morphing into Great Pacific Iron Works, which went on to become Black Diamond and Patagonia. They remain our largest and one of our most admired vendor partners.

After 49 years in the business, it is Alpine Shop's Vision to see Generations Transformed by Discovery Outdoors.

Climbing News Updates St. Louis-area

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