Roger Furst | Sports chain founder, 78

Posted: April 08, 2012

Roger Furst, one of two fishing buddies who founded the Eastern Mountain Sports retail chain, which has equipped thousands of people to trek deep into the mountains, ski in the backcountry, or scale a peak, died March 16 in Sherman, Texas, a day after his 78th birthday.

Mr. Furst was a lawyer in Denver in the early 1960s when he met Alan McDonough, a hotel manager, and the two began hiking and fishing in the Colorado Rockies.

"We got tired of walking two to five miles back to our car in the dark," Mr. Furst told Backpacker magazine in 1974. "We started carrying our camp on our backs so we could sleep over and cook our fish right away."

But the bulkiness of the equipment prompted Mr. Furst and McDonough to begin searching for manufacturers of lightweight backpacks, hiking boots, sleeping bags, and camp stoves. Realizing that there was a growing market for such equipment, they decided to shift careers and open their first store - but not in the West.

With far fewer mountaineering stores in the Northeast, they decided that Wellesley, Mass., was the right place to open what in 1967 was called the Mountain Shop. Demand was immediate, and within a year Eastern Mountain Sports had a 10,000-square-foot store in Wellesley, the largest outdoor-equipment outlet in New England. That year, the partners also opened the EMS Climbing School in North Conway, N.H., now the oldest rock-climbing school in the East.

"They helped shape the industry," said Will Manzer, the current chief executive of Eastern Mountain Sports.

When Mr. Furst and McDonough sold Eastern Mountain in 1979, it had 19 stores. It now has 66 stores in 13 states, Manzer said. After several changes of ownership, Manzer bought the company in 2004. - N.Y. Times News Service

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