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Changing the Guard.

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Nushif, Nov 29, 2010.

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  1. Nushif

    Nushif Member

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    So, after long discussion with my wife, it has been decided that after we finish college we will be moving to Colorado for 14 months and attending a gunsmithing school.
    At that point it is a distinct possibility that we may open a gunsmithing/gun-selling store.

    Now, something that has me concerned about this is the attitude of the community, if you will.

    My wife is 20... something? mid twentyish? and I am upper mid twenties, both of us have visible tattoos and neither of us are in the habit of "wearing our pants around our bellybutton." Which isn't to say we look like a real "thug" but we definitely don't match what the current generation of gun owner (I guess?) considers "professional looking."

    We'd most likely open a store in a mildy rural (read: near a small city) and highly blue aligned area, since red areas don't like our political views.

    My question here is, as to whether we even stand a chance with the current "average" gun owner in attracting business?

    For a greeting they simply wouldn't get a "Good Morning, Sir" as I don't sir and I hate being sired. Rank works fine by me. This is just an example, but how much does one have to behave like the proverbial white conservative male to actually be successful in the gun community?
    Other industries have started moving away from the pro forma trend, do you think the gun community will stop with this as well?

    I, of course, don't intend this to be a mudslinging fest, but rather a discussion about two things:
    1. How much does the gun community look to outward behavior as signs of professionally or respect and
    2. Does a semi-hippie couple who loves shooting and has started to work around guns stand a chance?

    Thank much, let's try to not get this thread locked. I know it contains a smattering of politics, ageism and the like but it'd be foolish in this case to not call an elephant an elephant. I would like a realistic answer here.
     
  2. G27RR

    G27RR Member

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    How do you greet them if you don't use sir? Serious question, since you don't know them, you can't use their name, so what do you use? Or do you not plan to greet them? Just curious.

    While I don't personally care for tattoos, I don't hold them against anyone so long as they act professionally and treat others with respect.
     
  3. CraigC
    • Contributing Member

    CraigC Member

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    Your appearance is important but your attitude will have more bearing on your success than anything. I'm a 36yr old conservative white male but there are a lot of conservative white male gun shop owners and employees that rub me the wrong way. That is because they may know a lot about guns (usually not), they know nothing of dealing with the public. I learned a long time ago not to go to gun shops for answers on anything but pricing. So friendliness and willingness to help are more important than knowledge. In other words, leave your ego out of it.

    Your politics won't be an issue unless you make it one.
     
  4. geekWithA.45

    geekWithA.45 Moderator Emeritus

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    Oh, please.


    Knock it the heck off.

    Most of us are freakin' mutants.

    If you can manage any recognizable version of friendly, courteous, attentive and nonhostile, you'll do fine.
     
  5. Mags

    Mags Member

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    Sorry pal I am sure you are a good guy and all but if you work in a store you greet customers as such. I also would not give my money to a "hippie". I would feel my money would fund a different agenda than my own. I am also in my mid twenties and believe a real man dresses as such and pulls his pants up and wears a belt, maybe even tucking in his shirt if the situation dictates. So for those reasons I would walk in and walk out, after not receiving a "hey how you doin?" from the slob "boy" with his pants around his ankles.
     
  6. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

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    Depends on a couple of things, in my humble opinion.

    1) How much of your work is going to be store-front, walk-up business -vs.- on-line trade? Obviously, if someone can't see you, they can't denigrate you for your appearance.

    2) What kind of community will you be trying to establish yourself in? Goes back to the store-front trade question obviously, but there are some spots in the country where the gun culture is a little fresher, hipper, younger, etc. and some where it is very staid, sedate, and traditional.

    3) What kind of work are you planning to do? Build competition "race" guns, 3-gun carbines & shotguns, black rifles? Build custom hunting rifles? Build traditional Pennsylvania long-rifles? Re-time and refinish Colt revolvers? Drop in light connectors in Glocks? Various types of work brings with it broadly different sets of clientèle.

    4) (Most important!) You may not want to "Sir and Ma'am" folks much, but the professionalism of your demeanor can make or break you. Look, act, and speak like a slob, and few folks are going to want to entrust you with their herilooms and treasured posessions (that might blow up and kill them if you do something wrong!). Look sharp, organized, intelligent, treat folks with absolute honesty, and speak to them all politely, and most will be willing to overlook a little ink that's maybe not to their own taste.

    5) You know you have a bit of a hurdle to overcome because of your choice of artistic expression. Don't let that be a chip on your shoulder. If your proud of who you are and confident in your own skills and worth, you can afford to be the nicest, most professional guy your customers have ever met.

    Good luck!
     
  7. preachnhunt

    preachnhunt Member

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    If you treat people with respect,run a good shop with decent prices ,and don't make an issue of looking different from the norm, I don' think you'll have much problem.
     
  8. Nushif

    Nushif Member

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    I mostly use a "Hey." or a "What's up?"
    Sometimes I offer up a "How you doin'?" or very annoyingly cheery "Morning!" no matter the time of day. The "Morning!" is probably my most common when in uniform and dealing with my fellow peers.
     
  9. Mags

    Mags Member

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    ^^^ This, alot of people who are "different" have this look at me I am going against the grain attitude.
     
  10. minutemen1776

    minutemen1776 Member

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    I don't think you have to portray yourselves as 1950s conservative stereotypes to make it in the gun business. To me, the principal things I look for are professionalism, courtesy, and competence. To look professional, you don't have to be totally clean-cut, so long as you don't come across as a complete slacker. For courtesy, that doesn't necessarily mean saying "sir," but it does mean you should greet customers politely and understand that your business depends on meeting customers' needs. Competence can stand for itself. Just give correct advice and do quality work, and that will provide a solid reputation for more business.

    Frankly, many of the gun shops I go to are sorely lacking in one or more of these areas. If you provide all three with consistency, I expect you'll do well.
     
  11. Nushif

    Nushif Member

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    1) How much of your work is going to be store-front, walk-up business -vs.- on-line trade? Obviously, if someone can't see you, they can't denigrate you for your appearance.

    I'd be doing most, if not all the storefront work, since the wife is extremely shy. Actually, she has pills for meeting people excessively.

    2) What kind of community will you be trying to establish yourself in? Goes back to the store-front trade question obviously, but there are some spots in the country where the gun culture is a little fresher, hipper, younger, etc. and some where it is very staid, sedate, and traditional.

    The community we'd be aiming at is rather young and definitely more "fresh" if you can call it that. It's notorious for that, actually. We'd be looking at College Towns. Surrounded by more rural areas.

    3) What kind of work are you planning to do? Build competition "race" guns, 3-gun carbines & shotguns, black rifles? Build custom hunting rifles? Build traditional Pennsylvania long-rifles? Re-time and refinish Colt revolvers? Drop in light connectors in Glocks? Various types of work brings with it broadly different sets of clientèle.

    My wife loves Berettas. I don't see anything other than shotguns and handguns in her future. I love my handguns as well, so I don't see us going into the rifle business any more than basic repair work. Handguns, I don't know, I wouldn't be above a smalltime customizing business for Berettas and other less represented brands.

    4) (Most important!) You may not want to "Sir and Ma'am" folks much, but the professionalism of your demeanor can make or break you. Look, act, and speak like a slob, and few folks are going to want to entrust you with their herilooms and treasured posessions. Look sharp, organized, intelligent, treat folks with absolute honesty, and speak to them all politely, and most will be willing to overlook a little ink that's maybe not to their own taste.

    Well, I haven't gotten gripes about being professional, actually quite the contrary, people are usually quite surprised and willing to deal with me. I worked as a liaison mainly when I was still with he Air Force. And learned a lot of ... tact that doesn't have to involve the strict ritualistic "Yes/No, sir."

    5) You know you have a bit of a hurdle to overcome because of your choice of artistic expression. Don't let that be a chip on your shoulder. If your proud of who you are and confident in your own skills and worth, you can afford to be the nicest, most professional guy your customers have ever met.

    Well, we stopped frequenting places that wouldn't hire us. Since everyone at Starbucks has to cover their tats we no longer get overpriced coffee, but overall I think I could make a pretty decent handgun smith. Again, I have a history of not appearing unprofessional to the average guy, unless it usually is them who has a chip on their shoulder. The sad part is that well, there are folks out there like one of the above posters who believe the height of the proverbial pants on one's derriere makes a professional.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  12. medalguy

    medalguy Member

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    I agree, a courteous attitude will go a long way. I live in northern New Mexico and we certainly have our share of "old hippies" and "artists" around here, and while I sure don't share their politics for the most part, I can overlook that if they are courteous and professional in their demeanor. The ones I have a problem with are the ones who take digs at my Palin bumper sticker.

    Keep in mind, for new customers (all of yours will be), first impressions count. I would suggest you look professional (just pull your pants up a little) and act professional, and everything else should fall in place for you. Knowledge is probably what they will come in for. Just my .02.(used to be a nickel)
     
  13. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    LOL Yeah, that's the truth. Some of the stores are pretty "old boy," but they're not the ones looking for sales. Typically those are one-man operations that are just in putzing along until the owner's retirement. You don't want to be in that batch even if you agree with them politically. Rants about the Democrats doesn't make any money.

    I'd suggest you follow the THR model. Keep political rants to a minimum. Focus on providing knowledge and needed products--particularly on the things the big box store that starts with "W" isn't carrying. You want your place friendly, but unlike a sleepy bait store you actually need to make sales--lots of them. So not having the inevitable batch of grumpy old men sitting around carping on Obama is actually a plus. Comfortable, but neutral.

    Melding with the conservative gun culture is NOT going to be your big problem. You're going to have much bigger problems competing with the double threat of S-Mart and the internet. S-Mart will cut into your new gun and ammo sales, and the internet will cut into that plus sales of components. Plus there's the economic downturn in general along with the slow decline of hunting sports. When I was in Oregon last year two of the gun stores I visited were in the process of shutting up shop for lack of sales. You'll really need to think outside the box as they say to make it down there. So coming out of left field could be an advantage. You might want to retool to focus on the firearms people are actually using--concealed handguns. Offering a full service facility with testing range, training and CCW classes would be idea. I know of some outfits in the PNW that are doing this. There also seems to be a real need for gunsmithing and custom building capabilities. It goes without saying that you'll HAVE to be 100% on-line. One of the local shops that's survived around here has gotten through many lean months on internet sales.

    One thing that always strikes me as odd is how just about all the gun stores ASSUME the shoppers know what the devil they're looking at. They'll have a stack of surplus rifles, for example, but zero explanation other than obscure names. A shop that offered not only a shelf of, for example, Yugoslavian M48's but a booklet explaining their historical significance, would be nice. You don't want to be the type of owner who dismisses those asking basic questions as a "looky loo." I've often wondered why more stores don't offer "starter packages" to new customers explaining a lot of the things we take for granted such as how to clean the firearm, basic stances plus some initial training.

    You're also going to have troubles with the local planning commission, particularly in Oregon. I would suggest trying to use this to your advantage. The same ultra-strict zoning has created S-mart free zones in that state.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  14. bigalexe

    bigalexe Member

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    The problems I see you having with attracting customers are no different IMHO than trying to operate any other storefront. Remember that guns are essentially deadly and many people put as much effort into buying a gun as they do into buying a car, and there is just as much voodoo superstition about who and where you buy from.

    I think the question is this: Would you consider buying from this person an item your life depends on?

    Maybe you should look not just at the gun crowd but at the public in general. How does the public perceive you and do they trust you?
     
  15. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    If you can drill a few holes straight and tap them quickly and inexpensively I don't care how the heck you look ~!
     
  16. rfurtkamp

    rfurtkamp Member

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    If your politics become known and they don't align with those of your customers, you'll be in a world of hurt in this business.

    You can be wierd, have tattoos, look like hell, et cetera, but people will not spend money at places they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be aligned with their "enemies" or enemies of gun owners.
     
  17. kaferhaus

    kaferhaus Member

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    You only get one chance to make a first impression.

    I wouldn't be blatantly showing off the tats or clothing myself in a way that wasn't fairly consistent with the surrounding community.

    Saying "yes sir" and "no sir" when dealing with a customer or potential customer is not beneath anyone, it's a very simple form of showing some respect. I do it all day everyday and I'm over 60....

    Most people with disposable income to buy "toys" on any kind of regular basis are going to be well over 30yrs old. Those people.... if you have any interest in being successful, are the customers you need to cultivate and convince that you're worth their time and money. Most of those people are not going to fit your "mold" as you've somewhat described it.

    Gun-smithing school is not going to make you one..... I hope you realize that. It takes years of experience after the training to become really competent.

    In a "blue" area.... you're not going to find the same percentage of folks who even like firearms much less folks that want to pay to have one customized.

    It seems to me that you have "authority issues" which have led to the aversion you have to addressing people as sir or ma'am and perhaps to the personal appearance choices you've made.

    Also, I assume you've got a couple hundred grand set aside to establish a initial inventory for this gun shop, another 50 grand for operating capital and maybe 20 grand for equipment and fixtures? And your market research has shown you that the competition in this area is ripe for a new enterprise?

    With local shops going under all over the country, the attitude you seem to have and the geographic area you've chosen.... it ain't lookin too good for you.

    would I buy from you? I dunno. Maybe.... but you'd have to act like you wanted my business and have some manner of a professional appearance. Body art is for your enjoyment.

    The fact is most people are not put off by a tat or two, but when you start getting into the sleeves, necks etc. Most people just don't want to be around you.

    Again it's the first impression.... you could be a great guy that I'd like to be buds with...

    Most of the time you will never get past that first impression.
     
  18. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Member

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    Well, if your customers stereo type you as much as you have just stereo typed the "gun community" (whatever that is), I'd say you don't stand a chance in hell.

    Sounds like you've got a huge chip on your shoulder to me....

    One common sentiment you'll find on all the "gun store" threads is that customers, who are considering parting with their hard earned dollars, don't like to be disrespected.

    If you can't treat people with courtesy, respect and an open mind, then I'd suggest running your business on line.
     
  19. 788Ham

    788Ham Member

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    I live about 25 miles West of Denver, the big box stores around here deserve what they get, nothing from me! There used to be two of the biggest sporting goods stores in the Rocky Mtn. West, they sold off to a conglomerate, they've been sold twice since then, get the picture? In the city I live in, there isn't a gunsmith anywhere around, 20 miles North of here, my buddy told me of one, a very good one too, although I'd like one closer, he does superb work, yes, I'll go back. The owner is very professional, used to be ahead of security for a Western Gov., know his stuff, very polite. I am almost 62, I have tattoos also, was raised by strict parents and also served in the Navy '67- '71, so being polite and using Sir and Ma'am doesn't bother me, I expect to be treated politely, and I extend that politeness without reservations.

    My needing gun work is rare, but if I need help, I expect the shop to let me know how long its going to be, how much, and will it be done right the first time! The price needs to be fair also, this I feel is why a couple of fishing stores that were here in town are gone, they gouged the Hell out of everyone who stepped inside, if you weren't wanting to spend $575.00 for one of their fancy fishing poles, "There's the door!" I'm certainly not suggesting any free service when I come in, but trying to make your store's monthly rent off of one customer won't fly either. There is a town 10 miles further West of me, Boulder, I'd not even try to get set up there! They are a totally different breed, guns and gun-smithing wouldn't go very far with that crowd!

    Good luck with your endeavor!
     
  20. oldbanjo

    oldbanjo Member

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    I think if you look like you are in the Hell's Angel's it would hurt your business. My nearest neighbor's Daughter and her boyfriend are covered with Tattoo's, their 17 years old, the girls mother is a Cop. I have one Tattoo, I'm Retired not job looking but I do think all those Tattoo's will affect the quality of job's that those two Kids will get.
     
  21. cleardiddion

    cleardiddion Member

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    If you're looking to do business in Boulder, y'know the whole 'hip' scene and all that it may be a bit difficult.

    As far as I know there's one gun shop in that town and it's very much geared towards the older or more conservative patrons. It suites me just fine but not so much for others.

    From what I've observed about gun culture in that town, the more conservative folks there are on the look out for ccw items or hunting/traditional long arms.
    The CU kids? as far as I'm concerned a great number of them have bought into the 'guns are evil' camp and all that jazz. Not the most friendly crowd that I've ever met.

    There's a few other options around the area like Niwot and Longmont. With regards to Longmont, it's a relatively good place (Magpul and Lefthand/Oskar Blues! Whoo) but you'll have some competition. If you could find a niche in between the big box stuff like Wally World and all the pawn shops I'm sure you could get a relatively healthy dose of business.
    Just my 2 cents.
     
  22. 2000Yards

    2000Yards Member

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    As others have said, your success will depend on much more than your appearance. A sound business plan is essential - and that comes from understanding the fundamentals of business as well as, and perhaps better, than you do your trade.

    If you're new to both running a business and the craft of gunsmithing, do you have enough money set aside to sufficiently capitalize the business AND cover losses you will incur until you learn what it takes to be a good business owner and a good smith? Don't give up on your dream - but do understand that a year of gunsmithing may not prepare you to be a gunsmith anymore than an MBA prepares one to run a business (it doesn't, not by a long shot) or a law degree prepares one to actually be a lawyer (again, it doesn't).

    Try to make as few assumptions as possible - find people who have done what you want to do, as closely as possible, and try to learn from them. Think about alternative ways of gettting the experience that you need (several people I know started part-time businesses while holding a full-time job that supported them - the couple of years they had a steady income allowed them the room to learn and grow, i.e. make mistakes, in their part-time business that, had they depended on it would have sunk them, financially speaking).

    Understand that you may have to compromise if you want to succeed.

    Finally, and I can't emphasize this enough - you will be pursuing two entirely different careers - running a business and being a smith. Don't for a second think that the first is merely an extension of the second. Being a business owner can be rewarding, enriching and fullfilling - depending on scale it can be incredibly complicated, frustrating, and if you don't receive the proper tax and legal counsel, trouble. Anyway, you're starting off right by asking those questions. Keep asking and keep learning. Good luck and continue using this board, it's an incredible resource.

    2KYDS
     
  23. Mike J

    Mike J Member

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    If you are competent & polite I would think you can do okay. When I was growing up most people with tattoos were ex military, bikers, convicts or had gang affiliation. Nowadays tattoos have crossed over into mainstream culture & are much more accepted than they once were. Most people can overlook a persons appearance if they provide a needed service.

    I don't understand why saying sir is a big deal one way or the other but being raised in the South saying Sir & Ma'am was taught to me as using good manners & being polite. The main thing is whatever term you use to address customers that you be respectful & polite & do good work at a reasonable price. I would also suggest you find someone with more knowledge than I have to help you work out a business plan.
     
  24. MutinousDoug

    MutinousDoug Member

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    I don't think gun buyers will be swayed one way or another by your appearance; They're coming in to look at your stock and prices.
    People who need work done on their guns may have a problem with your credentials as a 'smith. Your diploma from Colo School of Trades is not going to convince someone like me to hand over any of my guns for repair or customizing. The guy that built my Bullseye gun is a one time Colorado State champion PSAC shooter with quite a following for his race guns. The guy that bedded my garand and rebarreled my NRA High Power gun is a Distinguished High Power shooter who went Distinguished shooting the Garand he built against an awful lot of AR shooters. These guys have credibility in the shooting community. They didn't just go to school and then hang out a shingle; they apprenticed for years before opening their own shop and built up reputations for knowing how to build and shoot the guns they work on. Much of their clientele is LEO and the few military who are permitted to carry their own personal weapons. Neither of these guys makes more than a modest living doing this work. (Although neither operates a retail sales operation, they are gunsmith/machinists, not gun salesmen)
    If you can afford to cater only to those who don't insist on these high (?) standards, you'll do fine (after you finish paying for your retail stock, safes, machines, tooling and gauges?)
     
  25. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

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    Colorado School of Trades has a great reputation.

    Boulder is a very complex place.. a transient student population surrounded by a rural one. You likely wouldn't do much 'student' business. There are a lot of high tech workers in the surrounding towns slowly replacing the traditional 'rural' workers.


    Fort Collins has that small town feel without being "Mayberry." There are a lot of hunter friendly businesses, and the locals aren't scared by the sight of open carry or tattoos.

    You've got a long way to go between finishing school and setting up shop. There's a lot to consider between the two.

    PS I have some friends in Phoenix AZ that complain about 'not being treated seriously' as a customer because they are not c'ard carrying Republicans'. Tides like these ebb and flow. Pretty soon one day the Lollapalooza generation will turn into the 'settling down' generation and a tattoos are as common on fashion models and doctors as they are on blue collar folks.

    But if you're talking ear gauging, facial tattoos and facial jewelry you have to expect some degree of reluctance to be hired outside of a tattoo shop/piercing gallery. People just are not used to it yet.

    Best to keep a 'portfolio' of work.. before and after customization pics, show off what you do well and really love doing. For all I know Doug Turnbull might have a shop full of dread locked, sleeved precision artisans, but keeps a more clean cut look at the front desk. You'll note while they have modern links to facebook and twitter they still look like a 'standard' smith shop--pics of guys in flannel shirts working. But they show off the work, and the work is what sells.

    http://www.turnbullrestoration.com/store.asp?pid=20022&catid=19872

    I realize that's a far cry from the average strip mall gunsmith that might spend most of his time replacing parts from a numrich catalog or hot bluing finish worn weapons... but you have to set some kind of goal for where you want to be.

    Welcome to Colorado, hope you enjoy it!
     
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