EXPEDITION: Shaz Schluter, Amy Sparreboom and Karlie Browne in the Mary St expansion of Camping and Outdoors.
EXPEDITION: Shaz Schluter, Amy Sparreboom and Karlie Browne in the Mary St expansion of Camping and Outdoors. Renee Albrecht

30-year business pitches new tent

IF YOU love the outdoors, then owning a camping shop might sound like a dream job.

However, Camping and Outdoors owner Amy Sparreboom said there was an unfortunate twist to having such a great occupation.

"Unfortunately owning a camping shop means you've got less time to go camping," she said.

"It's the catch-22 of the industry."

There's no doubt Mrs Sparreboom's passion has paid off though, with her store moving beyond its Duke St home with a Mary St expansion.

The expansion was also a remarkable step forward for Mrs Sparreboom, who has been running the business for less than a year after taking over from her parents last December.

It is was great step forward for a business she has been involved in since 1998, when she worked for the person who owned the store before her parents took over and ran it for 12 years.

"I worked there for nearly five years, and then went and did nursing," she said.

While she originally wanted to be an ambulance officer, Mrs Sparreboom stuck with nursing until, she explained, increased paperwork, politics, and bureaucracy began to overrun the industry.

Having started a family, she was presented with an opportunity by her family.

"My parents decided they wanted to cut back on what they were doing, so it just seemed to work," Mrs Sparreboom said.

Stepping away from nursing did not mean she had to leave behind what she loved most about the job, though: talking with people.

"That's probably the best part of retail, talking to people and finding out where they're going and what they're doing, and where they've been and what they've done," she said.

Since the expansion opened a fortnight ago, there has already been a good impact.

"It's really amazing how many people have walked in since we've been here and said 'oh, I didn't know Gympie had a camping store', even though we'd been there 30 years," Mrs Sparreboom said.

It also allowed her to put on more staff and increase their stock in growth markets like lightweight hiking.

She is also eager to become part of the Mary St experience.

"I like the idea of being on Mary St in that you feel more a part of the community. In the time renovating, the number of business people that popped their head in and said 'welcome to Mary St', it is a really nice feeling."