Your Local Retail Shop: Cumberland Transit
Our Local Retail Shop Series highlights local gear shops and tells their stories. We chat with shop owners to find out what makes their shop unique and how they serve their local communities.
Shop Name: Cumberland Transit
Location: Nashville, TN
General Manager: Jason Thienel
Nestled in Nashville’s Midtown neighborhood, right on the edge of the Vanderbilt campus is Cumberland Transit. This gear shop is housed in an impressively large space and has all of the goods you need for your next adventure. If you ever find yourself in Nashville, pop on into the city’s oldest outdoor outfitter and bike shop to chat with one of the friendly staff…you won’t regret it!
What’s the story behind Cumberland Transit?
We’ve been around for 50 years. The original owners didn’t quite have the vision of what it is now. It started as a small backpacking store, with a few bikes. Now we have a full-blown bike shop with a full service center. We have businesses on either side of our shop and as stores have gone out of business, we’ve taken over the neighboring spaces to expand. We even added a coffee shop in one of those spaces to try to bring people into our store that might not wander into an outdoor gear shop.
What got you started in the outdoor industry?
I was in the tech industry and hated my job. One day I was driving past Cumberland Transit and decided I wanted to apply for a part-time job at the shop to see if I wanted to change my career. As I was driving by I decided if there was a parking spot out front, I would stop in and apply for a job. It just so happened that there was, so I applied and started working Fridays and Saturdays. Next thing I knew I started managing the stock room and working full time.
There were two owners originally and eight years ago one of them decided he wanted to retire, so he sold his portion of the business to a guy named TJ. TJ really breathed new life into the shop and had the idea to open the coffee shop. He took an interest in me because I had worked at the shop for 17 years at that point and asked if I would ever want to buy the shop. At that point, he took a step back a little bit and I started taking over the daily operations. We had a really good partnership and worked well together.
What sets your shop apart?
We have staff that have worked at the shop for a long time, so if you come in often you will get to interact with the same people which is really unique and refreshing.
What outdoor activities does your shop specialize in?
Our biggest categories are bikes, men’s clothing, and footwear. We also have a fair amount of fly fishing and climbing gear. There’s actually really great single-pitch rock climbing in Tennessee that a lot of people don’t know about.
What are some of your most popular brands?
Tell us about the live events your shop hosts.
We’ve found that live events are a great way to promote the store and bring new customers in. It’s a great way to show people the store and give back to the community. It’s not all about selling gear, we’re invested in the community and people’s lives.
If a pro were to come into your shop, how would you prefer they shop?
It’s fine if people have pro deals and want to come into our shop to try gear on. We’d rather know up front and our staff is always wanting to chat with customers to help with whatever they need. We just don’t want to hear people talking to their buddies about the deal they can get elsewhere. I like to think of shopping local like you think of eating healthy: you can’t always do it, but when you can it feels really good and helps out. If you’re coming into the shop to try on a jacket, maybe just buy some camping food, fuel, or something small to show your support and keep us in business.
About the Gear Tester
Kelly Knauf is on the marketing team at Outdoor Prolink. When she’s not doing handstands, you’ll find Kelly camping, snowboarding, and grooving on the dance floor.