HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - In early May, employees at the Gander Mountain on Hardy Street in Hattiesburg started hanging "going out of business" and "liquidation sale" signs on the store windows.
While the Gander Mountain brand is going out of business, WDAM 7 later found out the retailer was purchased by Marcus Lemonis, owner of Camping World, who is working to keep the current store locations across the county. Hattiesburg store manager Gabriel George said the store is going to continue liquidating and be closed for a short time to be "reinvented" as Gander Outdoors under Lemonis' ownership.
Well, while Lemonis is working to keep stores open, he is also turning to social media for help designing the new logo and branding for Gander Outdoors. In a tweet on May 12, 2017, Lemonis announced the new contest:
Since announcing the contest, hundreds of twitter users have been tweeting designs, using the #ganderoutdoors, hoping to catch the eye of Lemonis and a national retailer. One of those graphic designers is Hattiesburg's Ethan Manning.
"I just love the open-ended creativeness, I guess," said Manning. "You're given creative direction, you stay within those and that's what I love about it."
Manning said he didn't even have a twitter account when the contest was announced. He said his friend, Blake, took a screen shot of the tweet and sent it to him. Manning said that night, he stayed up late working on the first of four designs he has tweeted so far.
"It's almost like 'Willy Wonka' approach, like the golden ticket," said Manning. "Here's this reward if you get the best one. I don't know if it's good or bad, but it's fun and I like designing, so."
Manning is currently the graphic designer for Venture Church. He's also done a number of freelance jobs around the Pine Belt, for shops and restaurants mostly in Hattiesburg and Laurel. Manning also helped design the branding for Laurel Mercantile, HGTV's Erin & Ben Napier's store. But, Manning said this process is a little different.
"There's no client interaction, like I can't talk to Marcus to see what he needs or the company needs," said Manning. "The designer needs to figure out what they want on their own, so I'm using it as a challenge to myself to see what I could do."
Lemonis says he will keep the contest open until he finds 100 designs he likes, which he will then narrow down to 25. It appears the public may have an option on voting from there.
Lemonis has also increased the reward for contests. The grand prize winner could see $100,000, with the 99 finalists receiving gift cards to Gander Outdoors.
Manning said he "doesn't think" Lemonis will pick his design, but for him, its about experience.
"Well, I'll try my hand at it and see if I can do it," Manning said. "I mean, if anything, I have something, a learning experience added to the process... a learning experience of what design is."