In 2000, after selling a business, Owen went into semi-retirement and began competing in triathlons around the state of Texas. Competing in other cities, he began to notice the possibilities in his own city. Cameron Park, Lake Waco and the Bosque and Brazos Rivers create an opportunity to swim, paddle, run and bike in picturesque, natural settings, making Waco an ideal location for recreational events and activities.
"Waco has the perfect setup, but no one was taking advantage of it, so I saw a need," said Owen. Owen and business partner, Ryan Gibson, met that need by opening an outdoor adventure store, complete with coffee shop, gear shop, full-service bike shop and gear rentals. Trinity Robb joined the team as store manager.
Owen has owned businesses around Waco, but this was his first business in the center of downtown. "This is the only place that has Cameron Park and the river. We love that it's downtown because ours is a recreational business, and people are coming down here to eat and stroll. They're not in a hurry," said Owen.
People can park their car, do a rental transaction and be dropped off with a kayak at the river, or they can hop on a bike and cross the street to Cameron Park. Eventually, the shop will have a watercraft storage area right on the river. One of the unconventional elements of Outdoor Waco is the Trail Head coffee shop, located in the store. The shop serves up bubble tea, in addition to normal coffee shop fare.
"We included a coffee shop because we wanted this to be a place where people can browse, hangout and enjoy what Waco has to offer," said Owen. During Baylor University's finals week, the store brought in extra tables and the coffee shop stayed open until midnight. Their opening week, the store held a college night and sent out a tweet, promising shirts to the first 50 people who entered the store. Before long, a line of 80 students wrapped around the block.
Families and couples also love the unique opportunity for active outings and dates. Part of the store's mission is, " to create a community of passionate outdoor enthusiasts." Outdoor Waco is also getting involved in the city's existing recreational scene. The store sponsors TriWaco, providing water and bike support on race days and free practice races for athletes training to compete in the triathlon. The store's downtown location has brought up unique challenges, such as dealing with the homeless in a loving way. "We're trying to figure out how to be a blessing to everyone, whether or not they're paying customers," Owen said. Owen offered advice for individuals considering opening businesses downtown: "A good rule of thumb is that it's going to take more money, effort and energy than you'd expect, but it's worth it. Anything worth doing is going to take some effort."