Chuck Seel of Swanton shops with his six-month-old Jack Russell terrier while checking out the Bass Pro Shops in Rossford.
Kathy Boswell and Theresa Gedert took turns standing below a giant polar bear - its razor-sharp black claws perched menacingly above their heads - and smiled for a photograph.
A few feet away from the bear, a NASCAR race car rested, as if it were waiting patiently to be photographed.
And next to the car, other visitors marveled at the giant freshwater fish swimming in a 20,000-gallon aquarium with water gently falling overhead.
Scenes like these are as common as fishing poles in Rossford's new 150,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops, marking its grand opening for the next three days as the latest area store to put the "destination" in destination retail.
"You could think of our store like a Disneyland," said David Harre, Bass Pro's general manager, who wouldn't venture a guess at how many of his customers were more focused on seeing than spending. "Some people come in just to see the store and its exhibits."
Bass Pro officials are expecting hundreds to line up outside the store this morning and for the next two mornings for giveaways for the first 200 visitors as part of its grand-opening celebration. The store has been open for two weeks.
But even as such ceremonial events draw attention, the store will be judged by how successful it is at luring people inside its doors to spend money.
Like Cabela's in Dundee, which has a store about 50 percent larger, the eye-catching architecture of its timber-lodge exterior is intended to lure in tourists and travelers from the nearby highway.
Even before last night's event, there were vehicles from 11 states in Bass Pro's parking lot.
Once inside, Mr. Harre said, it's not unusual for visitors to spend hours exploring the exhibits.
"It takes time to get it all in," Mr. Harre said.
Don and Beatrice Scherger would agree.
The Tiffin couple spent about three hours exploring the store yesterday after dropping off their granddaughter for volleyball camp at nearby Owens Community College.
"We bought a few things," Mrs. Scherger said.
"This is very nice," said her husband. "It's just my opinion, but I'm sure they'll draw some people off the highway."
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:
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