(Updated 11/8/2023)

WRIGHTSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM)– It’s the annual clearance at Shank’s Mare Outfitters in York County. They call it the Gambler’s Sale.

“It’s a sale that starts off at a certain discount level,” explains store owner Steve Winand. “And over a period of time that keeps increasing. The gambling part of it is, depending on how many of something that we have or you want, how long it will be there and how long you’re willing to wait to get that maximum discount.”

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But this is the last year for the sale. After 45 years in business, promoting activities on and around the lower Susquehanna River with their slogan “Go play outside!”, the owners of Shank’s Mare Outfitters have announced they are retiring, and say “by the end of this year, Shank’s Mare as you know it today will close.”

Steve and Liz Winand made the announcement on their website and Facebook page on October 31.

“It was a family decision,” says Liz Winand. We’ve been open for 45 years. Our son Devin works with us, and he’s been working in one way, shape or form at Shank’s mare for 42 years, even though he’s only 42. And we just decided it was it was time. Everybody wants to launch on some new adventures.”

They opened the business in 1978 on Pershing Avenue in York, selling canoes, skis, hiking, and backpacking gear, emphasizing “self-propelled activities”, as Liz Winand put it. They moved shop three times before arriving at their current location along the Susquehanna River south of Wrightsville in 1997. “It’s a 130-year-old general store, located by the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal,” says Liz Winand, and like any old building, it needs upkeep.

“There was certainly a lot of cosmetic work inside that needed to be done. The porches needed to be replaced on the outside.” The upstairs room where we interviewed the Winands is an example of the work they put into the structure. “This room was not finished at all. This originally was a cigar factory, so this room was raw. And we finished this probably one of the first rooms we redid,” says Liz. But, she adds, “It has good bones.”

The Winand’s son Devin grew up in the family business.

“At 15 is probably around the time when I started actually working in the store as well, as opposed to just being a little kid running around. You know, now I actually started scooping ice cream in our ice cream shop and help guiding,” he says.

They continued emphasizing outdoor activities, as pastimes like kayaking, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding joined earlier ways to “Play outside.”

They also moved into planned excursions, including rentals, tours, lessons, and especially school field trips. “Exposing over 30,000 kids to the wonder and importance of nature has been one of our greatest personal gratifications,” they said in their retirement announcement.

“We were able to add different kayak tours on the river to be able to do all of our lessons, all of our teaching programs,” says Liz Winand. “Then additionally, to be able to do kids camps and then school programs. Kids need to see what it’s like to go play outside on a beautiful river like the Susquehanna or play in a stream on Fishing Creek where we do our stream studies.”

Over the years they developed a symbiotic relationship with the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association. While the store will close, the association will take ownership of the property and continue the educational programs.

“Our organization has been here for about 12 years. We participated in their educational programming,” says Ted Eugeniadis the the Riverkeeper Association. I personally have been out to participate in their stream studies, which have been excellent for the last couple of years. But we have definitely roots that are tied to this place.”

The Winans obviously did not want this building to just be bulldozed and redeveloped into condos or into another commercial space or anything else. They wanted to preserve the building. What they also wanted to do was keep their educational programming intact. They have served our community for 45 years and there have been over 30,000 kids that have come through these programs and have learned so much about the Susquehanna and what it has to offer. And here we are inheriting those programs.”

As for the store itself, Liz Winand says it will close on Dec. 24, 2023. It’s a decision they describe as “Bittersweet”, but in their statement, they say “We can not thank everyone enough…customers, staff, and suppliers for working with and supporting us over the past 45+ years. Hope to see you on the trails and on the water.”

As for Steve and Liz, she says they plan to go play outdoors themselves. “My husband and I purchased a small travel trailer and we are going to do the National Park tour that we have never had time to enjoy!”