When Aaron Matkowski opened Artemis Overland Hardware in 2018, he set up camp on a niche corner of the market: vehicle-assisted adventures. Imagine driving a Jeep off road, parking it deep in the forest—maybe next to a waterfall—then climbing on top of your vehicle to sleep in a spacious rooftop tent, and you’ve got the right idea.
Artemis sells the equipment and supplies to make this experience happen, and it offers a showroom, where customers can check out the products in person. “A lot of the brands that we carry, we were the first people in the entire Midwest,” Matkowski says. Initially, this exclusivity drew customers from as far away as California and Pennsylvania. When people were passing through the Ozarks, Matkowski says, they’d make a point of visiting Artemis. “They knew we were here and wanted to stop in,” he says.
Matkowski doubled down on this advantage with an aggressive Google Ads campaign centered around brands that Artemis carried. He also forged relationships with online influencers who create off-road adventure content for digital and social media platforms.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, interest in vehicle-assisted adventures suddenly spiked. “Everyone wanted to do it,” Matkowski says. “I remember this guy called me from Chicago and said, ‘I go on four trips a year. We’re still going, but we can’t stay in hotels.’ So they bought a tent to put on their car.”
This brought a boom for Artemis, but it also brought additional suppliers into the market, so Matkowski adjusted to focus more on local customers. He purchased a building on East Olive Street, which has more showroom space—and room for additional products. Artemis now inventories items for backpackers, hikers and people who are interested in traditional, campsite-style camping. And since people who drive trucks have begun participating in the types of adventures that used to be reserved for off-road vehicles, Artemis stocks a full line of truck camping accessories. As Matkowski puts it, “The market moves fast, so you have to be one step ahead of it.”