Friends use zombie theme to promote survival store

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A zombie prepper is ready for any catastrophe.

“Hurricanes — all that disaster-type stuff — are nothing,” said John Quatkemeyer, co-owner of Colorado Zombie Outpost. “If you are prepared for a zombie apocalypse, nothing else is a problem.”

Quatkemeyer and co-owner Pearre Cabell have a passion for prepping, and they knew if their business were to succeed, they’d need a way to get customers shambling in.

“We are a survival store with a zombie twist, and we’ve both been preppers for many years and loved the outdoors as kids,” Cabell said. “It’s combining two things we enjoy keeping the business fun for us, because anyone who has started a business knows that’s important.”

The duo, along with their wives, started the zombie-themed business as an online store about four years ago.

“There were certain things we were looking for about five or six years ago and had to hit eight different stores in town to get them,” Cabell said. “At that point, we decided we wanted to be the one go-to survival store in the Springs, but with all the kids being Walking Dead fans and everything, we were like, ‘How can we target them?”

A year after the website launched, the store’s first physical location opened inside a small 10-by-10 foot space at the construction company they also own and operate together.

“We ended up remodeling over there like three times making it bigger and bigger, and that’s why we had to move again to this new sport, because we kept growing,” Quatkemeyer said.

Cabell said the new location, at 2845 Ore Mill Road, is more retail-friendly and is perfectly positioned off U.S. Highway 24 for any campers or hikers needing last-minute supplies on their way to the mountains.

The store is stocked with a variety of camping supplies and gear, including first aid and food kits, water packets, bladed weapons and signal flares.

“Basically, anything you would use for hiking or camping on a weekend is the same thing you would use prepping — it’s just more critical at the survival level,” Quatkemeyer said.

When they started the business, prepping was a $9 billion a year industry and zombies were $6 billion annually.

“So, we figured let’s put the two together,” Quatkemeyer said. “Plus we started thinking about why don’t people prepare for disasters, and it’s because it’s not fun. Nobody wants to think about that type of thing because it’s kind of like preparing for your own funeral.”

The store’s customers vary from the typical outdoor enthusiasts to “doomsday preppers” and zombie fans, Cabell said.

“We get a lot of foot traffic from being in between the marijuana dispensaries and the brewery down the strip,” he said. “Those are more of our zombie and Walking Dead fanatics.”

Quatkemeyer added, “We do try to keep the crazy down to a minimum, but we have no problem conversing with people coming in looking for the tin foil hats and stuff.”

Establishing the store’s core customer base as well as not taking on debt have been the biggest challenges for the business owners thus far.

“In our economy and just the world today, it’s hard to do anything without taking on debt,” Quatkemeyer said. “That, and then zeroing in on our customers. When we first started out it was hikers and zombie fans, but now, we are zeroing in and realizing it’s really more the zombie fans and the preppers mainly coming in.”

Cabell’s wife, Sunny, is behind the store’s counter running the shop the majority of the time.

“We are at our construction business 40 to 60 hours a week,” Cabell said. “She is here at the store at least 30 hours a week, but none of us take home a paycheck from it yet. All the store’s profits go right back into the business.”

Quatkemeyer called it a co-family-owned business as both couples’ children often are found helping around the store as well.

“Starting a family-owned business these days is extremely tough,” he said. “His kids help, and my kids help out too.”

Neither Cabell nor Quatkemeyer approach disaster prepping as a hobby, but instead as a way of life.

“People ask us all the time if we believe in zombies and what we ask is for them to define zombie,” Quatkemeyer said. “We use zombie as a euphemism for anything that might be a threat to you. So is it real? It’s absolutely real. For instance, the Waldo Canyon fire was a zombie.”

The store owners also believe people would be foolish to think there isn’t any type of existing biological weapon that could cause zombie-like behavior.

“Now, do I believe the dead will come back to life? Not so much,” Quatkemeyer said. “We do have a lot of people who come in and are a little skeptical, but then they see we are not a bunch of weirdos who think the zombies are coming tomorrow. And that the way we work is if the zombies do come, we are going to be ready, which makes us ready for anything.”