For the past 19 years, Big Muddy Adventures existed only on the river. The St. Louis-based brand offered expertly guided river excursions of the area’s “great rivers,” including the Missouri and Mississippi.
The company officially changed this structure in fall 2021 by establishing a retail shop in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. The Guide Shop is already becoming a base camp for the region’s river rats.
“There’s a lot of outdoorsy and outdoor recreation enthusiasts that live in the urban core of St. Louis,” owner and general manager Roo Yawitz says. “One of the reasons why we wanted to be where we are is to have a place for us to hang out and do community events for people who live in the city but who are also getting out and doing outdoor things.”
The Guide Shop opened in a former 1,200-square-foot Sinclair gas station at the corner of Walton Avenue and Olive Street. There, river enthusiasts can gather, swap stories over beers, check out the latest in apparel and equipment from well-known and smaller retailers and even find times to hit the water. Although there is a selection of items that visitors can purchase, Yawitz explains that The Guide Shop is more of a showroom than a department store.
“The actual shop is small, so we’re not really going to compete with other places in terms of depth of selection,” he says. “We’re trying to have the shop be a smaller, curated selection. It’s kind of gifts and outdoor gear, plus river time reservations, which means you can actually book a trip in the shop.”
Big Muddy Adventures plans to expand its online retail offerings in the coming months to serve as an extension of the in-person experience. Each component of the company’s expansion comes back to one simple goal: get more people out on the water. In so doing, Yawitz says St. Louis can reshape how locals and visitors alike perceive the city.
“St. Louis is a much cooler city if we’re using these rivers recreationally – they do nothing for us if we just stare at them,” he says. “The Missouri and Mississippi rivers are the reason St. Louis exists, and they can never go anywhere. When we bring people into [view of] the Arch and paddle through, that’s only an experience you can have in St. Louis.”
Big Muddy Adventures, 4662 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, (314) 896-4262, 2muddy.com