Piragis makes state list; Ely business named one of Minnesota’s “essential outdoor stores”

by Tom Coombe -

An Ely business has been recognized as one of the top outdoor stores in the state.
Piragis Northwoods Company ranks second among seven “essential outdoor stores in Minnesota,” according to a list released this week on the website www.stepoutside.org.
The website hailed the Ely business as “a premier outfitter for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” adding that “in addition to permits, canoe rentals and a lot of good advice, they also have a retail operation that sells new and used gear,” outlining an array of notable and respected outdoor brands.
Tim Stouffer, marketing manager at Piragis Northwoods, said company officials were notified of the acclaim via social media.
It’s not clear how the list was compiled or if the recognition came as a result of a nomination, but Stouffer and the rest of the Piragis team are welcoming the honor, which ran under the headline “Camping Done Right: Seven Essential Outdoor Stores in Minnesota.”
“We’ve enjoyed the buzz around the recognition and do feel it will be good for our business and Ely,” said Stouffer. “Sometimes it seems like people recognize big box or national brands more because of their larger presence and marketing efforts. However, it is always great to have affirmation that in people’s hearts and minds Ely, Minnesota has meaning.”
Stouffer attributed the award in part to customer service at a business that now mails 585,000 catalogs a year, shipping orders for clothing and other outdoor-related supplies around the world.
“It means a lot to us when our customers could shop at an REI or Cabela’s but they choose to shop with us,” said Stouffer.
He added that “much of that has to do with how they were treated when they came to town.”
“Ely residents and businesses do such a tremendous job of treating people with respect and care that folks go home from vacation wishing they could be part of our community,” said Stouffer. “Indeed, many times, they feel like they are part of Ely and they can’t wait to return for their next trip.”
The recognition has already resulted in positive feedback from customers online and those who visit during the summer, according to Stouffer.
He cited one comment from a customer who said Piragis represented the camping gear community well, hailing staff for listening to their customers.
“We take the time to listen and do customer service one-on-one,” said Stouffer.
The recognition comes on the heels of a slew of similar online recognition for the Ely area over the last decade, with the community winning tourism and marketing awards and frequently noted as a top outdoor destination, both in the United States and the entire world.
“It feels good to have some good news,” said Stouffer. “ It’s a little bit like Ely being named the Coolest Small Town in America. It puts our store and our town back in people’s minds in a positive way and reminds them that we all do things differently up here.”