By Nancy Tannler
The iconic Andy & Bax Outdoor Store has been in business since 1945 when two army buddies, Edgar Baxter and Andy Anderson started selling WWII army surplus gear out of the trunk of their car.
The partners first brick and mortar store was at 1234 SE Union Ave. (MLK Blvd.) and was originally called the Grand Hawthorne Surplus Store before becoming Andy & Bax Surplus Store. After the building burnt to the ground in 1962, the owners moved to its present location at 324 SE Grand Ave.
Baxter’s son Daniel took over the business in 1981 and hired a young guy named Ted Schopf to work for them one summer. Ted went back to school and eventually returned in 1992 becoming the General Manager of Andy & Bax.
For years, the store’s inventory was an eclectic mix of mostly military surplus merchandise and random overstock or close-out items including military lock boxes, GI clothing, boots and outerwear; weapons, gas masks, compasses, canteens and everything and anything pertaining to outdoor survival in the military.
Daniel was a white water enthusiast so he included the army/navy rafts to the inventory. His experience as a rafter inspired him to design a line of rafts especially for Andy & Bax.
The brand was Riken and was sold to another manufacturer and available only as a special order. To this day the store has one of the most extensive supplies of whitewater rafting equipment in the area.
Daniel’s son Riley eventually took over the store operations making him a third generation owner. Riley saw his kids weren’t going for four generations, so when he presented the idea of selling the store to Ted Schopf, Schopf was on board and capable of taking over.
That was two years ago and although the store had already begun the metamorphosis into Andy & Bax Outdoor Store, it is undergoing another makeover to meet the needs of today’s shoppers.
“The people who are interested in war memorabilia are getting older and 911 put an end to surplus sales except for a few items,” Schopf said. Today much of the leftover merchandise is destroyed rather than paying costs to have it shipped back.
Schopf still gets as much military surplus gear as possible from dealers in antiquities, but he has also researched and found wholesalers who deal in the basic items the store has carried over the years.
These include utilitarian wool socks, hats, pants, gloves, blankets and long johns, camo gear for adults and children, rain gear and rubber boots.
An interesting category is the pack section that includes backpacking packs as well as military packs; duffels (round and square, top load or side load) and with wheels; packs that collapse into themselves for travel and some for use in offices. There is a large selection made from different materials too (canvas, cordura, nylon, leather) depending on your choice of use.
Andy & Bax’ Emergency Preparedness section has been taken to a whole new level. “We carry water containers in multiple shapes and sizes, water purification and treatment, toilet systems, shelter (tents) sleeping bags, first aid kits, wind up radios, freeze dried food and Military MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), whistles, light sticks, rainwear, axes, hatchets, knives, flashlights, etc.,” he said.
The store stopped carrying firearms in the 1980s. “It was when the big box retailers started selling them in large quantities that we soon realized we couldn’t compete,” Schopf said.
This actually turned out to be a good thing with the current climate in country today. They do carry an extensive knife selection that includes the KBar, a prominent military knife; Columbia River Knife and Tool, Gerber, Kershaw, Camillus and Ontario. These are tools everyone can put to use.
Kathy Finn is now the General Manager and works to organize each section to make shopping easier and more purposeful.
“We finally have all the long underwear, clothes, rainwear and coats arranged according to gender, size and style,” she said. Before it was more random and, since today’s shoppers tend to be more time pressured, this makes shopping much easier.
“We still carry items like the popular military MA-1 flight jacket and midnight blue pea coats,” Finn said, “But the inventory is expanding to accommodate the outdoor enthusiast.”
Andy & Bax has a timeless vibe hard to find in many places. They continue to offer a traditional shopping experience where one can actually be surprised at the possibilities of finding some interesting, functional and cool gear.
Andy & Bax outdoor store is at 324 SE Grand Ave., 503.234.7538. They are open every day until 6 pm.