Tyson Stellrecht opened an outdoor gear shop in Eagle around 2008 called Backcountry Pursuit. He later moved that store to Boise, nestling it on Capitol Boulevard near Julia Davis Park in 2012. Five years later, the company suddenly changed its name to Boise Gear Collective. The public would later learn that the change was motivated by a copyright strike handed down to Stellrecht from Backcountry.com, an outdoor gear behemoth based out of Salt Lake City. Instead of trying to fight the teams of corporate attorneys as a small business, Stellrecht decided to rebrand. Thus, the Boise Gear Collective was born.
"Certainly I can say that we like our new name and we found a way to turn something that was a negative thing into a very positive thing," he said. "So looking at it through the lens of we were going through this massive expansion and changing our entire business model and adding the service and really changing who we are and what we do, still staying focused on used and consignment... but choosing to really embrace this bad thing that happened."
Stellrecht said he has come out clean on the other side. In fact, he and the patrons of the Boise Gear Collective like the new name, and as a business, it's going better than ever, he said.
The former Backcountry Pursuit wasn't the only company called upon to change its name. Shops and retailers across the country bearing the name "Backcountry" were asked to rebrand. Just like Stellrecht, many complied.
"We came out on the other side and it's a true victory for small business," he said.
To Stellrecht's mind, the name change has been welcomed by his customers. There has been an outpouring of support from the local outdoor community, which has even been overwhelming at times, but the Boise Gear Collective is charging ahead.
"With this thing, I didn't have a choice in the matter. I didn't have the money to fight," he said.
Stellrecht and others have been able to adapt to the changes, but one shop that chose to fight it landed in federal court: Marquette Backcountry, a small manufacturer based in Michigan that only makes two products, skis and a large water jug. Backcountry.com has since dropped the lawsuit against the small business.
However, the online retailer hasn't walked away from its lawsuits against small companies with "backcountry" in their names unscathed. It has faced wide public criticisms from small retailers and outdoor recreators alike. Most of them have called for a permanent boycott of Backcountry.com. A Facebook group aligned with that movement called "Boycott BackcountryDOTcom" currently has more than 21,000 members.
In response, Backcountry.com CEO Jonathan Nielsen issued a statement, noting that the company made a mistake, and didn't seek to own the term "backcountry."
"In an attempt to protect the brand we have been building for nearly 25 years, we took certain actions that we now recognize were not consistent with our values, and we truly apologize," he wrote in a statement. "It's important to note that we tried to resolve these trademark situations amicably and respectfully, and we only took legal action as a last resort. That said, we know we mishandled this, and we are withdrawing the Marquette Backcountry action."
Nielsen went on to write that the company is examining how it handles these sorts of situations and hopes to rebuild trust in the outdoor community.
"We only want what's best for the whole community and we want every person and business in it to thrive," Nielsen wrote. "Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word 'backcountry' or completely preventing anyone else from using it. But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions."
This wasn't enough for many who were already boycotting Backcountry.com, and many have cried foul about the intentions of Nielsen in releasing his statement. An edited version of the statement was posted to the Facebook group, which accused the company of only withdrawing because it was caught red-handed shortly before the holiday season.