What it's like to open a fly shop in the middle of a pandemic
Scheduling a grand opening for a fly shop at the end of March seemed like a good idea at the beginning of the year. I mean, what could go wrong? Get in a month before our local trout season opens, spread the word enough to get people flocking to the shop to gear up and get ready to fish all the great streams of Pennsylvania and introduce them to our brand. It was a great plan.
Well this little thing called Covid happened and blew all those plans up. So what's next? Do we open anyway even though our county was "closed" to most businesses. Do we keep the doors closed until this thing blows over and we are all good? Tough decisions had to be made but in the end we did what we thought was best for our new little shop and the business as a whole.
We did a soft opening in April and allowed just 2 people at a time in the shop. Kept things small and even arranged porch pick ups if people wanted them. We kept adding more products to the shop but didn't always have the foot traffic to know if it was worth it or not. But we knew the business was growing and this was a part of the business plan and we had to persevere. So we hung on until the end of May and did our grand opening when our county gave us the green light. We had an amazing support from the local community. As the first fly shop EVER in the county some were hesitant to see if we were/are going to make it. We however knew that a shop was needed and we could provide a great little shop for those new to the sport as well as those who have been fly fishing for decades.
There's not a whole lot of trout fishing in the area as the best spots in the state are a few hours drive away. But what we did notice is a lot of people who wanted to buy their first fly rod, or add their 2nd as they just started fly fishing last year. Or just walked in because they "always thought fly fishing looked fun". And away we ran. A few big events to get things kicked off and fantastic support from those who knew us before our opening and we are seeing more and more people visit our little shop every day.
The online business was definitely a big help to have a backbone to support the expense of a new shop, as it has been growing really well the last few years. Now with the shop we could also have everything all under one roof to help expedite shipping, organize inventory easier and help serve our online customers even better.
Now that we have been officially opened for around 6 months there's a few things to reflect on. First off, family and friends are awesome. They have supported the new shop by buying a few things like shirts and hats, putting signs in their yard and sharing things on social media to help get the news out about the shop. Second, regulars are awesome. They come check things out every time they're in the area and always pick up a thing or 3. Whether its a few flies, some fly tying materials or even a new rod or reel, they always pick a few things up and shoot the breeze for a while. Third, I'm quickly running out of space! Adding a bunch of fly tying materials, tons of new flies, waders, and more sure take up a bunch of room. We are already looking at expanding into a larger space in the future and can't wait to have that much more to help assist local fly anglers.
So in conclusion, starting a new business in the midst of a world wide pandemic wasn't all that bad. I think the pandemic really helped people appreciate the outdoors that much more and we saw a ton of people spend more time fishing, hunting, boating, hiking and more. That for sure helped the shop out but I also hope it helped those people get out of the busyness of their schedules to enjoy nature and relax a bit. We are thankful for where we are already in the new shop and can't wait to see where it all goes from here!
Get together with nearby kayak or float tube suppliers,maybe sponsor a class on how to fly fish from them safely and what they might need to do this,or have local guest fly tiers in your shop to demo new materials for tying.probably will have to post on a web site to see what kind of response before you commit to anything
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