A Heart as Big as All Outdoors

Paducah customers, classmates, friends, and families have been positive influences during a trying time for those close to the late Craig Sims

Craig Sims loved the outdoors. He loved the idea of helping others enjoy the adventurous outdoor activities he found so fulfilling. As Craig hiked, backpacked, and climbed mountains, a dream began to take shape—a dream that eventually became Hooper’s Outdoor Center in Paducah. Craig, his wife Vicki,  and Craig’s former Murray State roommate Dean Cherry, opened the original Hooper’s in 1993 on Hinkleville Road.

In 2008, the staff and the inventory took a trip downtown. And Craig started making trips to the hospital.

Although he had dealt with cancer earlier, Craig had been cancer-free for seven years. Through a busy Christmas season, Craig thought his lack of energy was due to a cold. However, within months he discovered that the cancer was back in the form of an inoperable tumor. Craig Sims passed away in September of 2009.

During Craig’s illness, his brother Kerry moved from Owensboro to help transport Craig to treatments and to help with the store. The business also hired a new manager, Matt Cherry. “The staff really stepped up,” says Vicki. “They had to learn on the job, because we weren’t here to train them.”

“It was never just about selling or fashion,” Vicki says. “We want customers to be safe and comfortable. Their clothing and equipment have to stand up to their needs in the outdoors.”

Hooper’s carried the North Face brand of clothing long before it was popular in the mainstream, because it was a good product for the outdoor customer. “Craig built relationships; he was knowledgeable, and customers came back,” adds Vicki. She says the business has grown incredibly since moving downtown, a commendable feat given the current economic downturn.

Though she and son Adam, have lost their husband and father, Vicki says they have been blessed. She cites many things she is grateful for, including loyal customers, an excellent staff, and a community that offered unbelievable support through Craig’s illness and death. “I didn’t cook a meal for months,” she says.

Adam’s class at Community Christian Academy has also shown an outpouring of support. “Adam’s class, their families, and the whole school have been very supportive. It’s really encouraging to be in that environment,” says Vicki.

Gale Grisham, Adam’s teacher, spearheaded an effort to put together a Relay for Life team and raise money for the American Cancer Society. The class raised money through multiple fundraisers, and students walked in the Relay for Life. An initial goal of $3,000 was surpassed early on.

The support shown her family is “a statement for how this town works,” says Vicki. She counts Paducah Bank among those who have been especially supportive.

“Kerri Brotherson has been so much help to me. We’re not just a number or a face. They are all there for us. During a very stressful time for me, they’re taking a load off. It’s been a very good relationship.” Vicki comments that her first checking account as a high school student was at the Reidland branch of Paducah Bank.

Brother-in-law Kerry adds that Paducah Bank played a role in his family’s relocation to Paducah. “We were looking for a mortgage, and as soon as I went into Paducah Bank, I knew that’s where we were going to do business because they were so helpful.”

Despite the devastating experience of Craig’s death, Vicki points to the positive. “Paducah is a good place to raise a family. We want to enhance our local community. We like dealing with a local bank, we like being downtown, and we appreciate that our customers want to support local businesses.

“This was Craig’s dream,” says Vicki. “Kerry and I are trying to continue that dream.”