HOLDEN, Maine — When Todd Rogers opened up his new store, The Hunting Lodge, 11 days ago, he knew he had to deal with one challenge that comes with doing business on busy Route 1A.
He had to figure out a way to stop traffic — or at least divert drivers into the Holden Plaza parking lot. He had to figure out a way to let people know that he was in business. He had to let potential customers know what he was selling.
His eye-catching solution: a 2-foot-by-8-foot hunter orange sign with a single word. “GUNS.”
On Thursday, Rogers chuckled and said that despite his eight previous years in the gun retail business, and all the contacts he has made over that time, the big orange sign has been an essential piece of his startup strategy.
“It’s been an amazing thing,” Rogers said. “I wanted to do the orange sign to catch people’s eye, because people are going by here at 50, 55 [mph], and there’s just a blur of signs … People see the big word ‘guns,’ and they come back around. It’s worked very well.”
The 41-year-old Brewer native has worked in law enforcement and managed nightclubs and sandwich shops before selling guns for the past eight years.
Becoming a business owner instead of an employee was a natural transition, he said.
“I’ve managed businesses and there’s always that desire, when you’ve managed somebody else’s, to go out there and do your own thing,” Rogers said. “To own my own business has been a dream.”
Rogers is running a one-man shop for the time being — his teenage son pitches in on Saturdays — and new shipments of merchandise are arriving daily. And as his sign indicates, guns are the primary focus of his new business.
“I’m servicing the hunter right now, because it’s hunting season,” Rogers said. “Eventually, I’ll move to servicing the whole shooter: The target shooter, the reloader, the guys that like to shoot the military [weapons], defensive pistol, [and I’ll be trying] to be a trading post-like shop.”
Firearms season on deer opens today and Rogers also is carrying a variety of other hunting-related supplies, including scents and calls. Come spring, he’ll shift some of his focus to fishing, but is unsure how that will work out.
The guns he has in stock also will change, he said, depending on the season. While rifles that can be used for deer hunting may be hot sellers now, at different times of year shooters might be looking for a gun to use on coyotes, or turkeys. Rogers said his stock will reflect customer demand.
Rogers will buy, sell and trade guns, and is hoping private sellers and those who buy guns on the Internet will visit his shop as well.
“One of my biggest selling points is my transfer fee,” he said. “I’m doing $15 for civilians and $10 for military.”
Transfer fees, Rogers said, are charged when buyers or sellers want to transfer ownership of a firearm, but want to do so in a manner that provides a paper trail of ownership. Rogers takes care of the paperwork and required federal background check, and the seller knows the buyer is someone permitted to own a firearm. In addition, buyers who purchase firearms on the Internet must have them shipped to a licensed gun dealer who takes care of the federal paperwork.
“For a small $15 fee, that’s peace of mind [for the seller],” Rogers said.
Rogers said he’s hoping to hold a basic pistol course in December and may offer reloading seminars in the future.
For now, though, he’s focusing on trying to provide the best service he can for the customers who see the big orange sign and drop by.
“My biggest thing is worrying about being the owner-operator, and having the customers who know me from the community come in and [know] they’re dealing with the owner,” Rogers said. “They’re not dealing with a big-box store and the revolving associates that are different every time. It’s going to be the same guy, they know what they’re getting, and they know they can trust me.”
The Hunting Lodge is located at 231 Main Road in Holden and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. It is closed on Wednesdays.