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Retired Conn. firefighter opens gear store for outdoor enthusiasts

Retired Hamden Firefighter Matthew Sarracco’s work in high-angle rescue has led him to open a store for rock climbers, hikers, campers

By Luther Turmelle
New Haven Register

MADISON, Conn. — For many years, Matthew Sarracco’s work as a Hamden firefighter included working as a member of that department’s high-angle rescue team, a job that included rescuing hikers and rock climbers who were in distress.

Now retired from career fire service, the Madison resident is in the business of helping outdoor enthusiasts pick the right gear for their chosen pastime. Sarracco and his wife Tara launched their retail outdoor gear business, Mountain Expedition Supply, at 847 West Main St. in Branford over Memorial Day Weekend.

The store sells a little bit of everything including tents, rock climbing and hiking gear, sleeping bags and outdoor wear. And when colder weather arrives later this year, Sarracco will makeover his 2,500 square foot storefront to sell a full range of snow sports gear and cold weather outerwear.

“It will be like starting the store all over again,” he said of the seasonal changeover.

Beyond his own personal passion for outdoor activities, Sarracco got the idea to go into business for himself after long-time Connecticut retailer Action Sports closed its Branford store in the spring of 2023. Action Sports’ Old Saybrook location remains open.

“I think there is a real demand for what we do in this area in our demographic, which is people in their mid-20s to mid-40s,” Sarracco said. “This is an area where people are well-to-do and people really like the outdoors.”

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But Mountain Expedition Supply is opening at a time when one of the long-time names in the outdoor gear market, Eastern Mountain Sports, is closing stores in Connecticut and elsewhere.

While Mountain Expedition Supply doesn’t have enough display space for kayaks or stand-up paddle boards, Sarracco said he has arrangements with suppliers and will do custom orders for either.

Although his business has been open less than a month, Sarracco is already on his first business trip, buying gear that he will be selling next spring.

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“It’s very intimidating for someone who doesn’t have any retail experience,” he said. “It’s hard to know what will sell. But I’m going with the philosophy of selling self-curated merchandise, the kind of things I would buy if I was the one doing the shopping.”

And in a nod to his former profession, Sarracco is offering a discount to first responders who buy gear from his store.

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Pack your gear, fire up that stove, and get ready to chow down like a king under the stars