Check out the awesome stories behind these 10 family owned gun shops that are some of the most successful in the country
There are plenty of places to shop for a new firearm, but the best gun stores in the country are local businesses. Many of them started out as small mom-and-pop shops before becoming the booming retailers that they are today. Here’s a look at 10 of our favorite shops from across the country, all of which are part of Realtree's Independent Dealer Initiative. You can shop for a new handgun, or a rifle or shotgun for this fall — and maybe pick up a new turkey call, waders, or boots while you're at it.
Green Top Sporting Goods
What started in the 1940s as a modest green-roofed gas station and fireworks stand now spans 67,000 square feet and is known as Virginia’s hunting, fishing, and firearms headquarters.
“Brothers Cecil and Carroll Hopkins started the store in 1947,” Jimmy Hyman, Green Top Sporting Goods VP of operations and marketing, said. “One day a customer traded a pistol for a tank of gas. The gun was sold later that day at a modest profit. It got the brothers thinking that selling firearms would provide some added extra income, especially as the area was populated with many hunters and target shooters. Within five years, gun sales became the largest part of the business.”
Located in Ashland, Green Top Sporting Goods now carries more than 100,000 different items, including firearms, fishing tackle, archery gear, clothing, cooking equipment, and more, bringing in customers from every walk of life.
“We cater to a large number of women shoppers because our associates are willing to answer their questions in a helpful and never condescending manner,” Hyman said. “We also formed a chapter of A Girl & A Gun, that teaches women firearm safety, along with many other areas of outdoor life.”
Variety is the name of the game at McCoy’s Outdoors in Marianna, Florida. Customers who visit the sprawling retailer will discover it offers a convenience store, feed store, high-volume gun store, archery shop and boutique — all under one roof.
Robert Chason, McCoy’s Outdoors manager, said, “We’re located in the only county in Florida that borders Alabama and Georgia, and we have a lot of out-of-state customers. Many of our customers come from some of the larger cities to shop with us. We also have a very loyal customer base that often extends into generations of the same family.”
Chason said customers are buying guns and ammo as quickly as the store can stock them.
“Our business model is to keep more products on hand than a lot of other gun stores. That model was a blessing for us this year because we had product in stock for longer than most stores. We have also branched out and brought in some new products that are not mainstream but are quality products and the availability has been greater.”
Simmons Sporting Goods
In 1983, Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop, Louisiana, started out as just an old filling station. But 13 expansions (soon to be 14) and almost 40 years later, the 80,000-square-foot store is one of the largest independent outdoor retailers in the South.
“My dad, Jeff Simmons, started the store simply because he was a hunter and he needed hunting supplies, but there was nothing in the area,” Simmons Sporting Goods CFO Lindsey Simmons said. “He never imagined it’d get this big.”
Simmons said the employees are the key to the store’s success.
“Some of our employees have been working here for 30 years,” she said. “They are hunters, have years of experience and the knowledge to help.”
Customers also appreciate that the store is family run.
“My mom and dad work here, and my brother and I do too,” she said. “There’s a Simmons in the store every day.”
The area is a big waterfowling destination, but Simmons covers the entire gamut of hunting gear.
Of course, guns and ammo are the big seller right now, and Simmons has managed to keep up with the high demand.
“We’ve been fortunate to have more inventory than anyone else, thanks to our relationships with manufacturers,” Simmons said. “We’ve been able to get stuff that other stores can’t.”
Rogers Sporting Goods
Thanks to its huge selection of hunting gear, Rogers Sporting Goods in Liberty, Missouri, is known by many as the Sam’s Club of the hunting world.
“Just like Sam’s, we put out big stacks of inventory. We offer bulk items and have a huge display of ammo,” Stevie Rogers, head buyer for Rogers Sporting Goods, said.
Rogers’ biggest customer demographic is the young crowd, ranging from 25 to 35 years old. Rogers credits its youthful clientele to the store’s healthy presence on social media.
“We do a lot of Facebook and Instagram posts, and it’s paid off,” he said.
“My dad, Steve Rogers, founded Rogers in 1980. My grandpa was a professional fisherman, and my dad starting selling lures to dealers. He set up shop in Liberty and sold out so fast that he had to order more inventory. The store sold only fishing stuff the first 10 to 15 years, but then my dad started selling ammo. He decided to give away a dozen decoys each time someone bought a case of shells, and the promotion worked.”
These days, Stevie works with his father and both of his sisters in the 58,000-square-foot store.
Known for selling waders, Rogers has one of the largest waterfowl sections in the country, including a huge selection of decoys.
Founded in 1988 in a two-car garage, Whittaker Guns developed a great reputation as a large firearms retailer, but something was missing.
“We lacked the diversity that appealed to our core hunting base,” Whittaker Country co-owner Darrik Caraway said. “We may sell the customer a rifle, but he was going elsewhere for archery supplies, clothing and much more. So, we evolved into Whittaker Country to appease consumer requests.”
Cedarstix Archery and Outdoors (located in the back of Whittaker Guns in Owensboro, Kentucky) is now the largest archery shop in the state. You’ll also find the floor full of hunting clothing, casual apparel, and footwear.
“We’ve recently added outdoor cooking and fishing equipment to the assortment in an effort to better appeal to our outdoor customer,” Caraway said. “Expect to see more lines and products added in years to come. We’re now much more than just a gun store.”
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Paducah Shooters Supply
When it comes to Paducah Shooters Supply, it’s all about family. In fact, nine family members work at the Kentucky store, which owner Trudy McCutchen says is the key to the store’s success.
“I, my husband, daughter, three sons, a daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and family friend all work in the store,” McCutchen said. “Being family, they have a vested interest to see that the store succeeds, and they rise above when it comes to customer service. We stand behind all we sell. If there’s a problem, we take care of it.”
McCutchen said her husband, Lynn, was only 20 years old when he opened the store in 1983. He liked working on guns, so he started a small gun-repair business. Then he became interested in buying and selling guns.
“He started drowning in customers and eventually turned his store into a gun/shooting supply store where he sold, traded, and repaired firearms.”
These days, Paducah Shooting Supply packs 10,000 square feet full of merchandise including apparel, footwear, and novelty items. It also has a big indoor archery range, which attracts numerous customers.
“We sell handguns and unique guns, which brings in a lot of gun enthusiasts. We also have a four-lane range that everyone loves. A couple of our staff specialize in firearms training, which many of our women customers appreciate. More and more women are coming in and purchasing handguns, and they want to be able to shoot and train with them right away. Of course, we cater to a lot of hunters too.”
Van’s Deer Processing & Sporting Goods
What began 28 years ago as a deer processing business out of a family grocery store is now the largest stock and gun dealer in the area. Van’s Deer Processing & Sporting Goods, located in Brandon, Mississippi, stocks a whopping 13,000 firearms in a normal year. As if that’s not impressive enough, Van’s processes around 20,000 deer a year as well.
Todd Sarotte, Van’s manager, said, “We carry a diverse selection of products; therefore, we have a diverse population of customers. Many of our clientele are more experienced hunters and anglers. They’re looking for product that the typical box store just doesn’t offer. For example, we carry a lot of fishing tournament accessories that you can’t find at box stores.”
Of course, these days, firearms, ammo, and optics are the most requested items. Fortunately for Van’s customers, they’re able to keep most in-demand items in stock.
“We have a great relationship with vendors and manufacturers,” Sarotte said. “We’ve supported our manufacturers when business was slow by buying things we didn’t need, and they remember that and are returning the favor.”
Darren Nichols had dreamed of working in the outdoors ever since his brother-in-law introduced him to hunting when he was just 9 years old. That’s why, in 1989, he decided to buy his father’s old country store and turn it into a sporting goods store. Nichols Store had only been in business one year when a fire destroyed the building and all the merchandise inside. Nichols could have called it quits and almost did. But instead, he slowly rebuilt the store and hired his first full-time employee in 1993. Now, 18 years later, his business employs 45 people in facilities that span 48,000 square feet in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In fact, Nichols Store is now essentially three businesses in one — a sporting goods store, Nichols Processing, and Nichols Buggies, which sells electric and gas side-by-sides.
Nichols says the key to his store’s success is his hardworking staff and the services they provide.
“If someone buys a safe, we will deliver it and set it up in your house, even if it’s hours away. If we sell you a tower stand, we’ll set it up on your property if you’d like. We have a guy who will come out to your property to build food plots. We’ll also set up your rifle for you. We try to be as service-oriented as possible.”
Fin Feather Fur Outfitters
Ohio outdoors enthusiasts looking to gear up for the season can turn to one of six wildly popular Fin Feather Fur Outfitters across the state.
Offering a huge selection of outdoor gear at very competitive pricing, the store is also known to have one of the best archery pro shops in the entire state.
Fin Feather Fur Outfitters VP Rees Vail credits the store’s success to its enthusiastic employees.
“People work at our stores because they’re passionate about the outdoors,” Vail said. “Our staff is composed of regular working-age people ranging in age from college students to those past retirement age.”
Those employees cater to a variety of customer types.
“Our store is always filled with a big hunting crowd, plus blue-collar workers, Second Amendment supporters, collectors, doctors, bikers, and everyone in between,” Vail said.
Of course, guns and ammo are the big attractants right now. Vail says they’re able to keep up with the demand better than the others, thanks to relationships with the suppliers.
“We do big volume and order ammo monthly,” he said. “We’re on the phone constantly and are taking anything that’s offered.”
Final Flight Outfitters Inc.
Rooted in faith, family, and the outdoors, Final Flight Outfitters, located in Union City, Tennessee, specializes in retailing high-end waterfowl products but carries a variety of apparel and gear to cater to all types of hunting interests.
Seth Dortch, marketing manager for Final Flight Outfitters, said, “Our ambition is not to try and set ourselves apart, but to be confident in who we are. In the long run, that is what sets us apart.”
Final Flight Outfitters is in a region of the Mississippi River Valley where hunters hunt hard, and use their gear to maximum life.
“We are a Class 3 gun dealer with a team of gun techs and product lines for personal and home defense, long-range shooting, recreational shooting, and long guns for any type of hunting a consumer may be interested in,” Dortch said. “We also have a full-service archery shop for whatever endeavors one may have with a bow in hand. Over the years we have also adapted and evolved into the casual clothing, as well as carrying product lines for youth and women.”
Realtree’s Independent Dealer Initiative
Realtree’s Independent Dealer Initiative
Each of these 10 stores is part of Realtree’s Independent Dealer Initiative.
Realtree knows connecting with people and building a community around a shared goal creates value for all of those involved. The initiative aims to ensure that stores across the country are able to affordably source and stock Realtree camo products in the categories their customers need. The Realtree team works with Realtree licensees, the stores’ sales forces, distributors, and others to help manage inventory, displays, signage, and promotions. Sharing common vision and working toward complementary objectives is a win-win for both Realtree and the independent retail stores, and that’s what great partnerships are all about.
“Having worked in the outdoor industry for 20 years, it’s truly a dream job for me to be a part of the Realtree family and head up the Independent Initiative,” David Langston, Realtree director of independent retail, said. “I’ve enjoyed building relationships with these family owned and operated businesses. Helping them with in-store signage, POP’s, displays, billboards, and sharing information with them on Realtree licensees and partners, sales and marketing contacts has been a pleasure for me.”
Whittaker Country's Darrik Caraway said he’s grateful for the partnership. “Realtree recognizes that most innovation comes from consumer ideas, and that’s why the Independent Dealer Initiative is so successful. Realtree is still the only company in the industry that puts an emphasis on independent retailers. That’s the primary reason we’ve formed such a strong bond, and the trust is mutual.”
Langston added, “This initiative works toward Bill Jordan’s vision of a set focus on independent retailers around the country — not going in to sell to them, but to help them.”
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