New York City seems an unlikely locale for an outdoor gear shop; they’re better situated in small towns that are, you know, close to the outdoors. But just blocks from Downtown Brooklyn, surrounded by bars and boutiques and with a more-accessible view of the Statue of Liberty than any mountain, stands a unique outfitter called Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co.
Yeti coolers anchor its window displays, which are also arranged with t-shirts and wide-brimmed hats. Inside, there’s a backpack wall, a shoe wall and of course, an axe wall. Eye-catching clothing racks bear technical outerwear and button-ups from brands you’ve never heard of. There are maps of local state parks for sale; the botanical prints hung on the wall behind the cash register, however, are not.
“When we first opened it was about flannel, Americana,” says Gene Han, the store’s owner. When he opened Hatchet’s doors as a side project to other retail projects – Han took over his family footwear store Rugged Sole and rebranded it as a streetwear shop called Alumni – he concentrated on a trending desire for heritage brands like J.Crew and Red Wing and value on Made in the USA products. “That evolved into an appreciation for technical materials and functionality,” Han says, but he’s referring to consumers, and offering up his theory on why outdoor lifestyle has become as appealing among the general population as it has.
Growing up a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout, Han didn’t need to develop an understanding of function. “Our troupe didn’t have the best resources. When we went camping we were using these cheap A-frame tents; we didn’t have the best gear,” he says. “There was a lot of good stuff out there that we couldn’t afford and I geeked out on it. That desire of wanting cool stuff back then definitely manifested into [Hatchet].”
More than gear-nerdery, the Scouts instilled in Han something critical to Hatchet’s existence: that it’s possible to live an outdoor-oriented life in one of the world’s most iconic cities. Han’s troupe’s base, Pouch Camp, is a 143-acre tract on Staten Island and New York City’s only Boy Scout camp. “We had to travel out a lot. [New York] is very limited in terms of camping and hiking, but you go out an hour drive, and there’s tons.”
Inside Hatchet, the Boy Scout vibe is detectable. With its campy feel and a mix of products both stylish and practical, it calls to mind Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom but avoids the kitsch. Han admits that many of the items he sells are primarily about aesthetics, but even those things have to meet the store’s standards: “It has to have an outdoor inspiration and be unique and extremely high-quality.”
“This brand is super unique. We’re always looking to bring in new products that aren’t as easily or readily available. They have little to no presence in North America, but this is a brand that at its inception had a sustainable ethos. A lot of brands do that now, but they approach everything with such a unique, out-of-the-box way.” — Han
“This brand has done surprisingly well for us and it’s one of my personal favorites. It’s out of Japan. I guess you could call it a menswear brand but they tend to use a lot of technical fabrics, whether it’s waterproof/breathables, they’ll take fabrics like that and make it into the sleekest, cleanest menswear silhouettes. They had this wool pant that was just traditional wool but up top it was more of a camp-style pant but it was cropped and pleated. It was this hybrid of a pleated wool pant, a more formal menswear type of pant, with a traditional camp pant up top.” — Han
Buck Knives 110
“This has a sentimental value to me. It’s been my knife since I was 10 or 12 or something. I still have the same one from back then, it’s a great knife. We sell it because of my direct past with it.” — Han