Eyes roll when I step into an outdoors store. It's okay, I know I give off a this-girl-doesn't-sleep-in-a-tent vibe. But I've been shopping army surplus stores since I was a teenager in jeans I distressed and pinned all by myself. I still have my first canvas army green pack with minimal metal hardware, and so what if I used it to haul notebooks and lip gloss.
Tradition Creek in St. Paul brought me back to that time when I was the coolest and most original college student, strutting around campus in baggy secondhand military cargo pants. The store, which opened earlier this summer on West Seventh, is cozy, yet comprehensive. The front room is filled with casual and active apparel from performance brands including Marmot and locally produced lines such as Bemidji Woolen Mills. You can be sure anything on the floor that happens to be hip or trendy—Red Wing boots; buffalo plaid vests—is there despite being hip or trendy. Up the stairs, past the packed shoe room, is where you'll find serious gear for camping, canoeing, snowshoeing and wilderness survival.
The more you learn about Tradition Creek, the more you'll want to support this independent outfit. Owner Shawn Murphy, a St. Paul native, wrote his business plan while serving with the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan. He was a Boy Scout, and is a lifelong camping enthusiast who knows good gear. While there are plenty of places to buy it these days, he missed the authentic army surplus stores of yesteryear. Murphy bridges that divide by selling updated lines alongside government issued surplus. The store is veteran friendly, but not at all off-putting to a spectator like me. Stop by, or shop online. 933 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-330-5735