Black-owned hiking gear shop in Brooklyn blazing new trails

In the heart of Brooklyn, Benji Williams and Ken Bernard have embarked on a unique venture with the grand opening of Outlandish, an outdoor gear shop in Brooklyn. 

The shop is geared towards helping customers look and feel good when they are off the beaten path. 

The idea for the store came out of the pair's own journey of discovering the joy of hiking and backpacking.

"I was introduced to it, I liked it I fell in love with it then it became a goal of mine to help folks step into these spaces and reconnect with themselves as well," Bernard, the store’s co-founder said.

"It was a really powerful experience and at the same time we didn’t see a lot of people of color," said Williams.

Now, the pair say their purpose is to share the feelings they get from nature with others. 

"Our mission is to help people reconnect with nature. We’re a hiking store but we also have hikes that we host every two weeks," Williams explained.

They host hikes to get more people of color venturing into nature. 

In 2019 it’s reported just 23% of visitors to national parks across the country were people of color.

"I think a lot of folks don’t venture into the space because they don’t like what they think they’ll look like in the gear, so when you expose to options that not only look good but have the versatility of being worn on the trail but then you can wear it in the city I think folks feel more willing to step into the space and get a little geared up and get out there," said Bernard.

"When you break it down, you have the outside, you have the relationship with the land, and then you have ‘ish,’ which is you know stuff, products, but its actually fun and not taking yourself too seriously. We are trying to be at that intersection of fashion and function pieces that you can look good and also perform really well when you're outdoors," said Williams.

As black business owners, the duo are a natural anomaly, but mentorship from the only three other black owned similar shops. Nationwide makes the hike on the new journey, both exciting and empowering.

"They showed us it was possible, that you can survive as a black-owned gear shop even though there are only 3, now 4 of us out of about 4,700," Williams recalled.

The co-founders will celebrate the store’s grand opening at their store on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn on Friday evening.