Sporting goods store fires post-retirement passions

 Craig Dodd has found fulfillment since opening Chisholm Trail Outfitters two years ago in Hillsboro Heights. ?Selling a gun is not the primary objective,? he says. ?Meeting people and having the opportunity for younger people to get into the sport? is what motivates him. A current TV commercial asks, ?If you could get paid for doing what you love, what would you do??

You don?t need to ask Craig Dodd that question. He?s already doing it.

After retiring from a 30-year career in car sales, Dodd combined two of his passions?selling and hunting?when he opened Chis?holm Trail Outfitters in a 200-square foot structure next to Sonic Drive-In in Hillsboro in 2011.

?I had over 300 guns in that store, but you really couldn?t see them all because they were all sequestered,? he said. ?I had some that were still in boxes.?

About two months ago, Dodd moved the business less than a block to the west into a new 900-foot structure.

It feels like home.

?Years ago, I always wanted to open a sporting goods store,? he said. ?I elk hunt, I deer hunt, and this has always been something I wanted to do.?

Noting the dearth of outlets in the area for outdoorsmen, Dodd said he couldn?t be more pleased with the response the business has generated since he opened the doors.

?The community and the county have already supported us,? he said. ?We?re the only gun dealer in the county and we?re the only Class 3 dealer in this area.?

A Class 3 dealer can sell silencers for guns, among other things. In fact, it seems there are few outdoors equipment and services Dodd doesn?t offer or can?t track down for his customers.

?I?m a dealer for everything,? he said. ?I can get you anything from a $5,000 gun to $150 gun. It?s a pretty broad spectrum.?

More than guns

In addition to selling, trading and servicing new and reconditioned guns, rifles and shotguns?and providing the ammunition to go with them?the store offers basic fishing supplies and even horse tack.

?I?m not Bass Pro, but I have lures, reels, some rods?the basics for people who go to the reservoir or the county lake,? he said.

Dodd also is a distributor for Derksen Portable Build?ings based in Kentucky as well as shooting tables and deer feeders made locally.

?I want to expand,? he said. ?We?re going to get into a little bit of archery. I can?t compete against the big-box stores, but I can carry the supplies because this a big archery-hunting area.?

Just last month, a couple of local archery enthusiasts constructed an outdoor shooting range behind the store that archers can use during business hours.

?They don?t have to buy anything,? Dodd said. ?They just come out here, check in and use the range. It gives people opportunity to shoot.?

Retirement opportunity

Dodd came to Hillsboro after ?a successful 22 years in the Navy and a very successful 30 years in the car business.?

?It was time to retire, and my wife?s family?s all from here?mine are all deceased,? he said. ?So we decided to retire here.?

The new business venture wasn?t far from his mind.

?We wanted to establishing a facility where people could come to a good town?God fearing, pro-gun people that still believe in America, I guess,? he said.

He said Clint Seibel, the city?s economic development director, and Mayor Delores Dalke provided help and encouragement.

?I have to commend the business-development people because they were a big help for me,? he said. ?When I opened up (in 2011), it was just good timing. Gun sales were great.

?Hillsboro is such a recreational center,? Dodd added. ?You?ve got the reservoir, you?ve got the lake, you?ve got camper and RV people, and hunters and fishermen.?

?There?s no place around here where you can really get that done. There?s no place around where you can even get tack for horses.?

While Dodd hopes to fill the void of sporting-goods providers in the region, he doesn?t see himself as competing with local businesses.

?I?m just trying to help supplement what they don?t have,? he said. ?I don?t sell hunting or fishing licenses because Alco does. They don?t have any ammunition, so they send people to here.

?It?s a hand-in-hand idea, and it adds more opportunities for people to come visit. I?ve had people in here from as far away as Texas.?

A people priority

Even more than selling hunting supplies, Dodd said he enjoys the hunters themselves?which is why his store decor includes a small coffee bar with a table and chairs for guests.

?We enjoy people coming in here, sitting down and visiting,? Dodd said. ?Because the young people come in, we sell pellet guns, we sell BB guns, we sell paintball guns. We do that because the younger people that come in here, they listen to the older people and they learn things.

?I had a guy in here a couple weeks ago, and three young men from Oklahoma. He was talking, and they were writing it all down because they were so interested in what he was saying.

?There?s a lot of experience-based conversation that happens in here. That?s what we look for.?

Dodd said the store isn?t intended as a hangout exclusively for males.

?I?ve been trying to get it established to where ladies come in,? he said. ?It?s all western themed. Ladies can come and look, guys can come and look. There?s a little bit for everybody. We get a lot of lady gun buyers.

?Selling a gun is not the primary objective,? Dodd is quick to add. ?Meeting people and having the opportunity for younger people to get into the sport?shooting, hunting, the outdoor life?instead of sitting in front of a television and computer.

?That?s what it?s all about.?

Written By
More from Don Ratzlaff
Hillsboro boys 1-1 for the week
The Hillsboro boys saw an opportunity for victory slip away in the...
Read More