The following is the first in a short series about small businesses that started, grew and thrive in the shooting sports community of Cowboy Action Shooting. While these aren’t gun, ammo or even holster companies, they each play a vital role in the Cowboy Action ecosystem.
Cricket and Tu Luce La Threads, a.k.a. Larry Stott and Linda Allen, have been running a general store for almost 30 years, and it’s for sale.
Larry Stott and Linda Allen are ready to step off vendors’ row and, instead of serving their longtime customers, spend their time enjoying the cowboy lifestyle and competing with friends. Photo by P. Erhardt
Now, if you’re thinking a small general store in some quaint New England town where neighbors wander in, and one of them has a brother named Daryl and another brother named Daryl, you’ve got the wrong kind of general store in mind.
This one is under a tent. It’s also very mobile, and does a lot of traveling.
The Traditional General Store travels to upwards of 14 to 16 events a year, like End of Trail, the World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting and Wild Bunch Action Shooting, Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming, Gold Rush Days in California, and Mountain Man Rendezvous events.
Long before malls, big box stores, and even before the rise of Woolworth’s, the general store was where people out west shopped for all their sundries. Today, it serves the same purpose but this time at major Cowboy matches like End of Trail. Photo by P. Erhardt
I visited with them at End of Trail on the ranges of the Ben Avery Shooting Facility while they were still cleaning up after having been flooded out following a torrential rainstorm that made some roads in the Phoenix Valley impassable.
The two have been members of SASS – the Single Action Shooting Society – for 30 years, and both compete. Their love of competition is part of the reason they are selling their business, as it will give them time to enjoy the sport and be together with friends.
Theirs is one of many small businesses that have found a niche in the Cowboy Action Shooting world, catering to members who need period specific apparel and gear to play, well, cowboy. The stuff you just cannot readily find locally. These business have been established, grown and thrived on the ranges of Cowboy Action Shooting and similar events.
Can you call yourself a real cowboy – or cowgirl – if you don’t have a flask on your person? Pretty sure you can’t. Photo by P. Erhardt
In addition to the various odds and ends one would expect to find for sale in an old fashioned wild west general store, like furs and pelts, flasks, jewelry, and such, there were dresses. Linda has been marking dresses for 60 years and she explained that it’s been her sole job for the last 30 to 40 years.
The Friday morning of End of Trail she spent most of her time on the phone with the insurance company after losing a couple thousand dollars in dresses due to the flooding. Not the best way to enter the sales weekend but she was taking it in stride.
Larry described Linda as essentially her own dressmaking factory, with a host of sewing machines, leather hides, numerous bolts of cloth that could last her quite a while, and the ability to turnout a lot more dresses.
And that could be a very important part of the sale of their business. Linda told me she’ll continue to make dresses, offering them exclusively at wholesale for the first two years to the buyer of their general store.
Included in the sale is also an offer to attend four key events in the first year to “introduce you to them and the ‘family’.” The Traditional General Store has years of experience at these events and a network of contacts around the country. Their customers return time and again to resupply and now even bring their own children to share the experience they themselves enjoyed when they were young.
The Traditional General Store is just one of many successful small business stories you’ll come across at a Cowboy Action Shooting event. And Linda Allen – Tu Luce La Threads – just one of the many artisans the sport draws in to cater to their membership.
Next week we take a look at another such pair of artisans that built their thriving cowboy business.
– Paul Erhardt, Managing Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network