Tent & Trails provides outdoor gear and equipment
Whether you're preparing for a high-altitude, snow-covered climb to Mount Everest or just a laid-back weekend hike through the Catskills, Tent & Trails can help outfit you for a walk along nature's wild footpaths.
Serving New Yorkers and tourists alike since the 1950s, Tent & Trails provides outdoor gear and equipment, everything from fishing knives to compasses, backpacks to binoculars, and climbing shoes to fleece vests. Voted the number one outdoor store in Manhattan in both the 2003 and 2004 Zagat NYC Shopping Guides, the family-owned downtown store houses three full floors of merchandise, from down jackets to the light-weight sleeping bags and T-shirts you'll need for those upcoming summer campouts.
Walking into the 6,000-square-foot store, customers at Tent & Trails -- located at 21 Park Place -- enter a space packed from floor to ceiling with Gore-Tex ski pants, Columbia Sportswear shorts, and Metro down jackets.
There are racks of blue and green T-shirts imprinted with phrases like "Not all who wander are lost." On the left-hand side of the store, glass showcases display sunglasses and survival, fishing, and pocket knives, priced from $15 to $120.
Walking up a short staircase -- its walls lined with posters of rock climbers and snowboarders -- patrons enter the second floor, which is dedicated to children's clothing and also women's wear, including a wide array of jackets, from waterproof North Face shells ($135) to Patagonia fleece vests ($70).
|This downtown store carries a wide selection of merchandise, including North Face, Madden and Gregory
Two flights down, in the store's basement, pick out a pair of hiking boots or sandals, choose from a rainbow of different sleeping bags, and, of course, the more than 130 types of tents available at the store. The cost of these tents can range anywhere from the basic $60 setup to the more elaborate $700 shelters, designed to protect against high-wind conditions.
With help from the 25 employees at the store, customers check out backpacks of all shapes, colors, sizes, and brands -- North Face, Madden, and Gregory -- and complete their back-to-nature supply run with stainless steel pots and pans, cutlery sets, waterproof pouches, and propane lanterns.
It's the rich variety of merchandise available at the store that differentiates Tent & Trails from its competitors, according to owner Jamie Abish.
"Nobody carries 77 kinds of sleeping bags," Abish says. "Nobody carries this many packs and shoes. And if we don't have what you need, we'll special order it for you."
Abish's father, Harry Lipman, started Tent & Trails in 1959. Throughout its decades-long history, the store has always been located in Lower Manhattan.
"This is the heart of the city," Abish says of downtown. "Everything is always going on down here. There is always something going on at City Hall. Every parade comes this way. The pulse was still beating strong down here, even after 9/11."
"On every block there is a story," she adds. "It's got history."
In 1973, the Lipman family moved Tent & Trails to their current location. For Abish, who had worked alongside her father at the store since she was just 16, it was natural to take over the business.
"A lot of people follow in their families' footsteps," she says. "They either go completely into it, or they go as far away as they possibly can. In my case, I wanted to be here."
Today, Abish -- a spectacled 48-year-old who wears her hair in a simply ponytail -- directs the store along with her younger sister Heather Lipman, 38. The two sisters oversee a business that continues to evolve, as outdoor equipment becomes more sophisticated and fashionable.
"Outdoor gear is now street-wear," Abish says. "Fifteen years ago, people wore sneakers to walk around if they wanted something casual. Now they wear hiking boots."
Tent & Trails caters to several thousand customers every week during the busy summer season. Customers drop by the store to purchase everything from carabineers to climbing rope. They rent tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks. They even shop for coats and boots personally designed by Abish.
|Tent & Trails has been serving New Yorkers and tourists alike since the 1950s
Starting about 10 years ago, Abish began creating her own outdoor gear, including waterproof, black and tan jackets that fold into their own pockets ($50), and long-sleeved, nylon travel shirts ($35).
"Stuff that I have designed has been to Everest," Abish says. "My stuff only made it to the base camp, but that's still better than I have [done]."
More than creating the clothing, though, what Abish truly enjoys about working at Tent & Trails is speaking with customers, learning about which mountains they plan to scale, which backwoods trails they intend to hike.
"I like meeting the customers and finding out where they're going," she says. "I like getting pictures and postcards back. I love to hear how the trip went, and how the equipment held up."
Tent & Trails, 21 Park Place, (212) 227-1760, www.tenttrails.com