Spot the Shop: WNC Outdoor Collective fosters outdoor appreciation through community

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Lincoln Walters, owner and operator of WNC Outdoor Collective, founded the business in 2021 as a means of connecting local outdoor gear makers.

The mountains make up an essential part of the Swannanoa Valley. WNC Outdoor Collective exists to connect the mountains and the community.

"We are very specifically a community-first retailer," said Lincoln Walters, owner and founder of the the collective. "We focus on what we do."

Walters opened the collective in April 2021 as a means for showcasing and expanding his own brand, Black Mountain Adventure Apparel. He said he wanted to create a space for other small makers to come together in a cooperative model.

"E-commerce has shifted consumer behavior," Walters said. "The way that e-commerce works, it's easy to find the best price, get the product the very next day. But people still realize there's a need for brick and mortar. So what are we doing differently?"

That question gave rise to the WNC Outdoor Collective. Walters said the collective provides human connection and community that promotes local gear makers.

WNC Outdoor Collective offers everything from shoes and outdoor clothing to sleeping bags, backpacks and paddle boards.

In addition to connecting community, the collective serves as an outdoor outfitter, providing local as well as more popular, mainstream brands.

WNC Outdoor Collective also offers workshops, meetups and group adventures that support outdoor enthusiasts of every level, from casual hikers to experienced outdoorsmen. Walters said no matter what industry local residents are a part of, everyone loves the mountains and what the outdoor community has to offer.

The collective offers outdoor gear as well as a casual, hangout spot for folks to enjoy a beer, and Walters said it's become a natural meetup for various local groups engaging in outdoor activities. Organizing group runs and hikes make up a large part of the collective's activities.

"We have these collective collaborations," Walters said. "Supporting people specifically in the outdoor industry that are nonprofits."

For instance, the Wilderness Education Association rents office space at the collective. Walters said this presents network opportunities as well as allows the collective to introduce various brands and organizations to each other.

WNC Outdoor Collective also offers beer and a community hang-out spot for outdoor enthusiasts to convene.

Despite opening the collective during the pandemic, Walters said things have gone very smoothly. He said the shop's outdoor space allowed patrons to feel more comfortable. 

"People felt comfortable because you're outside," Walters said. "To have a space that's outdoors, gather as you will, create space if you can. With that in mind, it was great."

Walters said hopes to open a second location in Asheville, possibly in the next year and a half.

WNC Outdoor Collective is located at 110 Black Mountain Ave. in downtown Black Mountain. 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.