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Inside Grasshaven's brick-and-mortar store in Boulder

Shop Talk: Grasshaven Outdoor

A Boulder gear store caters to the glamping crowd. 

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Neighborhood: Boulder

Go For: All your glamping needs, from pop-up tents and foldable grills to decorative (plastic) dishware and glow-in-the-dark bocce balls. A stylish camping store for the anti-backpacker, Grasshaven Outdoor caters to women without alienating men.

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Grasshaven Outdoor owner Dawn Bitz doesn’t exactly look like she frequents the backcountry, let alone makes her livelihood selling camping gear. That, however, is the entire idea behind her brand: Communing with nature can be both stylish and comfortable, an extension of everyday life. More glamorous than your typical camping gear, the goods Bitz stocks are bright, fun, and seemingly Martha Stewart–approved. In fact, RV Business once referred to Bitz as the “Martha Stewart of RVing,” a moniker she graciously accepts.

Bitz smiles easily and—in a move that likely throws off some visitors to her Gunbarrel store—is always clad in heels. The idea for Grasshaven was born when Bitz was in the midst of planning a camping trip and noticed that her gear options were limited, forcing her to sacrifice some of the comfort and style she was accustomed to. “I realized that if I lived in Boulder and couldn’t find the camping products I wanted, did they even exist?” she says. Bitz did some research, quit her job, and launched Grasshaven in January 2013.


Grasshaven Outdoor owner Dawn Bitz

Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Bitz was raised on a ranch and was no stranger to dirt as a child. Bitz is also the daughter of a serial small-business entrepreneur: Her mother started everything from car washes to pet supply stores, though she was never able to scale any of them. As a result, Bitz decided to work in corporate America and educate herself on how big business worked. “[Launching Grasshaven] became about balancing the entrepreneurial spirit that my mom had with a breadth of corporate experience,” Bitz says. She originally envisioned the company exclusively as an e-commerce brand but found the market demand was there for physical stores as well; today, Grasshaven has its flagship brick-and-mortar in Boulder and a slew of small showrooms in RV dealerships across the country, from New Hampshire to Idaho, in addition to an extensive online presence.


Grasshaven’s setup in Wilkins RV Supercenter in Bath, New York

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Over time, Grasshaven has switched from a focus on car camping to an emphasis on all things RV. According to Bitz: “The camping equipment market is about $10 billion in the United States, as outlined by the Outdoor Industry Association. The RV market is about $222 billion, but that’s including all the parts, travel, gas, accessories, etc. The housewares portion of the RV industry is about $20 billion in the United States, so today we say it’s about a $30 billion market that Grasshaven goes for.”

When it comes to finding stock to feed that $30 billion market, Bitz looks everywhere, mostly buying from outside the outdoor industry. The Grasshaven customer craves comfort, simplicity, convenience, and ease. Above all, though, the products Grasshaven stocks have to be stylish. Don’t come to the store seeking super technical gear for your Himalayan trek. If you want a tent that has no poles and goes up in 60 seconds or if you’re in the market for a $1,400 handmade tepee, then Grasshaven’s the store for you.

As the brand has grown, Bitz has shifted her focus in order to build a lifestyle around it, using the store’s website as a platform for community engagement. “Our next phase, which I never would have envisioned,” Bitz explains, “is that we’re actually in the process of executing a platform strategy across the web. We’re really striving to be the place where the community meets. We want to be the repository where dialogue occurs, where questions get answered, and where inspirational photographs get uploaded.”

In addition to maintaining the underpinnings of any self-respecting Boulder-based company (recycling, encouraging ridesharing, etc.), Grasshaven donates one percent of its profits to programs that support getting families outdoors and unplugged. As Bitz speaks, she continuously returns to the notion that camping and experiencing the outdoors as a family bonds people and encourages the types of experiences our modern, tech-laden culture leaves us wanting for. “There’s a dialogue that happens in the campground,” Bitz says, “and it’s really the last bastion of the Americana neighborhood.”

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By the end of a conversation with Bitz, it’s hard not to see the appeal of her luxurious outdoor style. A Grasshaven camping trip would mean never sitting on the dirt, always having ambient lighting, and eating gourmet meals off an ornate tablescape. It would also mean you’d be spending time with people you love in a beautiful setting (try one of Bitz’s favorites in Colorado, Stillwater Campground near Lake Granby). And if it starts to rain, Bitz has a solution for that too: “If the going gets tough, the tough go to a hotel, and that’s OK.”

Visit: Grasshaven is located at 6565 Gunpark Drive, #110, Boulder; 303-530-3339

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