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Midwest Mountaineering owner seeks his successor

Owner and founder Rod Johnson is looking to hire his future replacement to lead the popular outdoor equipment retailer.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Midwest Mountaineering has been a staple in Minneapolis for more than half a century, and now, the owner of the outdoor equipment shop is looking to hire his future replacement. 

Decades ago, Rod Johnson was studying at the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology when he realized it wasn't for him. That's when he immersed himself in the outdoors.

"I was just passionate about it, but I was very poor so I had a way to get gear for myself for wholesale by getting dealerships. So I would get extra gear and I would sell that to the other club members for halfway between wholesale and retail out of my kitchen," Johnson recalled. 

Johnson went from selling the items out of his kitchen to a space on the second floor of a building on Hennepin Avenue in 1971. Years later, he moved his shop to its current location in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Johnson now has 50 employees and thousands of customers. 

"Midwest Mountaineering is not about how much we can sell; it's about how many people we can get outdoors having fun," Johnson said. "We have to make a profit to stay in business, of course, but since we're not driven by the profit mode or trying to maximize sales, we can focus on our customers and give them ideas and advice so that they can have more fun outdoors." 

But to keep the mission going, Johnson is actively thinking about the future. He turns 73 in May. 

"I realize I'm not going to be around forever, but I would like Midwest Mountaineering to continue helping people get excited and have fun outdoors for another 50 years," Johnson said. 

When asked when he started thinking about finding his successor, he said, "When I was 50, so I've been trying for 23 years now." 

Johnson said it is challenging finding someone who is not only passionate about the outdoors but has a knack for retail. He recently wrote an open letter that detailed his intention to find his future replacement by hiring a general manager with a starting salary of $85,000. 

The letter received some press and Johnson said he has received about 20 inquiries so far. On Tuesday, he had several interviews lined up for the day. Johnson said they currently have a manager position available. Ideally, that manager would next be promoted to general manager and eventually owner. 

"Midwest Mountaineering has never been for sale and never will be. It'll eventually go to the general manager," he said. 

Johnson is seeking candidates who are passionate about the outdoors and have substantial retail experience. 

Those who are interested may contact Johnson at rjohnson@midwestmtn.com. 

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