By Elizabeth A. Harris
Feb. 21, 2014
Richard N. Cabela, founder of the hunting and outdoors retail chain Cabela’s, one of the largest sellers of guns and ammunition in the country, died on Monday at his home in Sidney, Neb., where the company is based. He was 77.
The company announced the death.
Mr. Cabela founded Cabela’s with his wife, Mary, and brother James in 1961, after he bought $45 worth of hand-tied fishing flies while on a business trip to Chicago for the family’s furniture store in Chappell, Neb., near the Colorado border.
When the fishing flies didn’t sell on the shelves, he put an advertisement in a newspaper in Casper, Wyo., offering 12 fishing flies for $1. He made one sale. So he tried Sports Afield magazine.
“FREE introductory offer!!!” the magazine advertisement read. “5 popular Grade A hand-tied flies. Send 25c for postage and handling.”
The flies sold, so Mr. Cabela bought more fishing gear, which he continued to sell through the mail.
Today, customers can buy bait, boots, canoes, night vision goggles, motion sensor cameras and firearms, among other things. The company had $3.6 billion in revenue in 2013, with more than a fifth of its sales coming from guns and ammunition.
Mr. Cabela was a vocal supporter of the National Rifle Association. In a video posted on the group’s website this week, Mr. Cabela was asked what he would say to someone who identifies as a hunter but who does not belong to the N.R.A.
“How are you going to hunt without a gun?” he responded. “These guys protect your right to own a gun. That’s what it’s all about.”
Richard Neil Cabela was born in Chappell on Oct. 8, 1936, one of six children of A. C. and Marian Cabela, who owned a furniture store in town. He attended Regis University in Denver, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2010.