Couple’s passion for Dayton and the outdoors sparks business plan

The Miami Valley has become well known for its outdoor venues, including miles of paved trails, world class Metroparks and river access.

Brycen and Claire Cross of Dayton have devoted their lives to encouraging people of all ages, shapes and sizes to take advantage of everything the area offers.

Claire grew up in Springboro and said she had a “traditional upbringing.” She graduated from Springboro High School and was active in her church’s youth group. That’s where she met Brycen when she was 11 and he was 12 years old.

“We became friends right away,” Claire said. “We started dating when we were 17.”

Claire left home to attend a small university in Michigan but found herself homesick, so she moved back home to attend the former Ohio Institute of Photography and Technology.

“I was in the last graduating class in 2009,” Claire said.

Meanwhile, Brycen grew up in Fairborn with a military family. He always loved being outdoors, from bike riding to camping with the Boy Scouts. He also loved music and played in the marching band.

Due to the distance between them, the couple only saw one another a few times a year.

“It’s just tough when you are 15 and you can’t drive and you like this girl on the other side of town,” Brycen said.

After graduating from Fairborn High School in 2004, Brycen went to Wright State University and majored in business. During college he started working at Wright Patt Credit Union as a teller and eventually moved into mortgage financing.

The couple married in 2010 and knew they wanted to buy a house in Dayton. They bought their first home in the Walnut Hills neighborhood.

Claire launched her own photography business after she had her first son, Andrew, now 10. The couple had two more boys, Albie, 8 and Ari, 5. Brycen continued building his career and Claire stayed home with her sons.

“Then Brycen’s brother was killed by a drunk driver in 2012 when he was 27 years old,” Claire said. “And in 2021, we lost my sister-in-law, Ali, to cancer. When you lose people you love so much, it’s life changing.”

During 2021, Brycen was working remotely and trying to balance family life with the demands of his job. It was then that he discovered one of his best outlets was spending more time outside.

“We started making more time and space in our lives to hike or explore our Metroparks as a family,” Brycen said. “It really helped our physical and mental health.”

As the pandemic wore on, the economy suffered. Mortgage rates started climbing and Wright Patt Credit Union began discussing making difficult decisions to cut jobs.

“It didn’t feel like I was passionate about the job any longer,” Brycen said. “I’ve always wanted to contribute more to the community.”

In 2022, the couple’s favorite outdoor retail store – Great Miami Outfitters - announced they were closing.

“What were we going to do if this city didn’t have a mom-and-pop outdoor retail store any longer?” Claire said. “Brycen knew instantly.”

This was in July of 2022 and between then and September, when Brycen gave his notice that he was leaving the credit union after 17 years, the couple made a plan.

“It was chaotic,” Brycen said. “We had to think about my walking way from this career when we had three young kids. Was it the smart thing to do?”

They began crafting their ideas into a brand — Base Camp Outdoors Co. — and created a mission to encourage and equip people in the community to engage more consciously with nature.

“Being in Dayton and downtown is important,” Brycen said. “Being a resource for the community is important. The name Base Camp means we are the place you go to start your adventure.”

They launched their online presence after Brycen left his job in 2022, knowing their goal was to open a brick-and-mortar location as quickly as possible.

“We went downtown to Moeller Brew Barn and sat on the patio and spotted an empty space,” Claire said. “It’s in the old Mendelson’s building so we not only get to reclaim it but to retell the story of Dayton in a very iconic neighborhood.”

The couple’s first physical location is slated to open this summer and will offer unique products as well as hometown-based items. They have partnered with Alexander Scaglia at Wolf Bomb to create all their branded merchandise and with Valerie Smith to create the “Very Dayton Bandana.”

“One of our big catch phrases is “outdoors is for everyone,” Claire said. “We know that it’s hard for larger people to sometimes feel included and we want to change that.”

The entire Cross family worked at downtown’s Second Street Market last summer, promoting their business and meeting their neighbors and other business owners.

“We want to be intentional about not only the brands we choose to work with, but also have an eye on sustainability,” Brycen said. “Our aim is to partner with companies that are taking steps toward being better caretakers of our plant. We want to walk with them and hope to bring others along with us.”

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