Bridgeport hopes for spillover effect from new Bass-Pro store. In fact, that was one of the main arguments in spending state funds to subsidize the project. But the store is south of I–95, on its own peninsula, and, like a casino, is designed to keep customers inside and spending; no one who’s driven fifty miles to ogle bass boats and shotguns is going to be particularly interested in schlepping up to Bridgeport main, to risk a mugging for a taste of Geraldo’s Genuine Enchiladas. Ain’t gonna happen.
Bass Pro’s Bridgeport store was the chain’s eighth and final opening of the year in North America. The business says it brings in 120 million visitors annually, even as the average shopper only goes twice a year, store officials said, making each trip an event.
“This is experiential shopping,” Jerry Van Huis, vice president of retail at Bass Pro Shops’ Missouri headquarters, said during a tour of the store last week. “It’s about differentiating yourself from the Internet.”
With a restaurant, bar, bowling alley and other attractions all within its four walls, Bass Pro Shops is designed to bring people in and keep them there. The store enjoyed a hugely successful opening last week, and promises to draw thousands of people into the city. But the gains it provides are to some degree self-contained.
The most significant barrier to Steelpointe Harbor’s effect on the rest of the city remains the elevated I-95 overpass that separates the development from the East Side. North of the highway is a neighborhood of homes and businesses that has long been in need of an economic jolt, but the Bass Pro business model doesn’t necessarily lend itself to neighborhood exploration.
“This is a full-day experience,” Van Huis said.
Well, maybe after that full-day experience, the guys in flannel will wander outside and give the hookers some business, but that’s probably about it.