Black Creek Outfitters closing after 39 years of helping people explore, enjoy the wild

Black Creek Outfitters, a pioneer in North Florida outdoor recreation for 39 years, is closing its doors permanently after selling the business that was one of the first in the woods that would become St. Johns Town Center.

The family-owned business that celebrated the rich diversity of the region's ecosystem and championed the environment announced the closure on Facebook over the weekend.

"Last September we received a satisfactory offer for the sale of our property. After searching the Jacksonville market for an appropriate location to go forward, we have been unable to find a spot that would allow us to continue with the same level of service we have provided for the past 25 years," owners Joe and Liz Butler said in the post.

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The Butlers couldn't be reached immediately for comment on Monday.

Their decision to close the store at 10051 Skinner Lake Drive comes after they sold the property in September to an Orlando-based property management and development company.

VDM Orange Retail LLC, managed by Frank Silverman, paid $3 million for the Black Creek Outfitters property on Sept. 28, 2021, in a transaction recorded Oct. 7, according to Duval County property appraiser and court records.

Included in the sale were the 13,910-square-foot, two-story store plus nearly 1.2 acres of land, records showed.

Neither Silverman nor other company could be reached for comment. Florida corporation records show VDM Orange Retail filed as a limited liability company on May 20, 2021.

On Monday, co-owner Joe Butler, Jr., talks about the kayak, wind surfing and paddle board business he helped expand at Black Creek Outfitters in Jacksonville. After 39 years of business, the Jacksonville staple will close its doors sometime in March. A liquidation event begins Thursday, Feb. 3.

VDM Orange is affiliated with Vision Development & Management, a commercial real estate development and management company, where Silverman is listed as co-founder and partner, on the Vision Development & Management website.

Black Creek Outfitters was founded in 1983 by Joe Butler's parents, Joe and Helen Butler, as Windsurfing Orange Park.

The Butler family bought the Skinner Lake Drive property from the Skinner family in 1996 and opened Black Creek Outfitters in 1997 at what was then an outpost in a heavily wooded area and farmland devoid of development.

The Butlers said that "sharing the wilds of Northeast Florida and beyond via the store has been "an enjoyable and rewarding journey."

Black Creek Outfitters co-owner Liz Butler organizes a table Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in preparation for the store's liquidation sale. After 39 years of business, the Jacksonville staple will close its doors sometime in March.

"Over the years we’ve put thousands of people out on Skinner Lake to demo kayaks, paddleboards and foil boards. Along with our passionate, experienced staff, we’ve helped thousands improve their skills and start amazing adventures and life-long hobbies. It’s certainly been an enjoyable and rewarding journey and a great run with all of you!" they posted.

Store staff taught a variety of outdoor skill classes and did kayak as well as paddle board demonstrations on neighboring Skinner Lake over the years.

Black Creek Outfitters is holding a going-out-of-business sale — both online and in-store — beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.

"Please join us for one 'last hurrah.' Our entire stock of kayaks, standup paddleboards, car racks, apparel, outerwear, footwear and accessories must be liquidated. Everything in the store is reduced, with some savings as much as 50% off," the family posted.

The store closed is closed until Thursday to prepare for the sale.

A fixture on Jacksonville's Southside, Black Creek Outfitters is set to close in March after 39 years in business.

For many years, Black Creek Outfitters — and then Bono's Pit Bar-B-Q — were the only businesses at Skinner Lake Drive and Gate Parkway.

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Then came St. Johns Town Center, which opened in 2005 and quickly grew into a regional retail, commercial and residential hub. Property values skyrocketed as did the demand for the land in that area.

The Butler family thanked their staff and customers for all their support over the years.

"Our family cannot thank our staff, our customers and the entire North Florida community enough for their support the past 39 years," they posted.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville's Black Creek Outfitters closing after 39 years