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Big plans for growing business

February 18, 2013

Reagan Slee is more than doubling the size of Reagan’s Sporting Goods in Bishop. The back area (behind the canvas tarp) will provide an additional 2,000 square feet for hunting and archery equipment as well as an enclosed 20-yard archery range. Photo by Deb Murphy

Reagan’s Sporting Goods opened the weekend of the Blake Jones Trout Derby in March of last year. Nearing his first anniversary, owner Reagan Slee is about to more than double the size of the store on Main Street to make room for more hunting and camping gear.
The original 1,500 square feet is maxed out, like an outdoorsman’s Disneyland. “I need to open up the front of the store,” Slee explains, winding his way through fishing rod racks and product kiosks. “It’ll make the store more shoppable. We’ll be able to spread things out better, bring in more rod racks.” He gets to the back of the shop where an additional 2,000 square feet is being prepped behind a canvas curtain. “This was supposed to be our photo counter,” he gestures toward a display of photographs of anglers and their big catches, now being used for product display.
“Business has been good,” he says of his first year.
The expansion fits into Slee’s original plan to provide a broad range of gear for both local and visiting outdoors people. A 20-yard archery range will be built in a reinforced, enclosed area beside the new space in the back of the store. Slee has carried compound archery bows since the store opened and plans on expanding into traditional equipment. “I have to learn a little more about traditional archery,” he says. Part of Slee’s customer service edge is the fact he grew up with Coyote Flats as his backyard, hunting and fishing all his life. Learning about all aspects of the sport not only helps him in product selection but also in helping customers.
A secured gun vault will be built into the back of the new space. Slee is in the final stages of securing a gun sales license and will carry a line of fire arms and rifles. He anticipates having the work done some time in March. The whole package will be the occasion for a grand re-opening scheduled for the last Saturday in April, the opening of the 2013 fishing season.
When Slee opened for business, his goal was to carry a little of everything. An example is the bold “Tire Chains” sign on the store front. “Yeah, people will stop at anything that’s open to see if they can get tire chains,” he said. “I’m one of the only places open on Sundays, so now they can stop here. I want to be a destination, like Schat’s Bakkery or Mahogany Smoked Meats. I want people to stop in on their way through town to see what’s new.”
The diversity in his shop is also part of his business plan. “I’ve taken on a lot of different lines,” he says. “I’ve got optics, knives, backpacks. I know what I like, things you couldn’t get in Bishop but now you can. I just signed up to carry Swarovski optics. They’re big with hunters and the Audubon Society. Now they can come in here and check them out, see how they work.”
Like all the locally owned businesses in the Owens Valley, Slee’s biggest competition are the Reno/Carson City area and e-commerce. “I can’t get mad if people go out of town to buy stuff if I’m charging $50 more for the same thing. But if I’ve got the same prices, or better, I can say, ‘Why didn’t you come here first?’ People know they’ll get a fair price here, plus good customer service.
“You can’t get complacent. I’m doing ok, but I always ask myself what can I do to do better. I want to make sure I’m not missing anything.”
Slee is coy about his plans for his grand re-opening April 27. “It’s going to be a surprise,” he says. “We’ll have a party, bigger and better than last year.”

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