Byron Dill says he has always wanted to open a hunting and fishing store. Last year, after spending 30 years in the lumber-selling business, he decided the time was right to make the career leap.
Van Raymond Outfitters in Brewer was closing after 36 years in business, and Dill knew that would leave a void. He said he talked with Raymond, who is married to Dill’s cousin, about buying the business, but eventually decided to set his own course.
On Jan. 3, the Bucksport man’s dream became a reality, as Dill’s Outdoors opened in Judson Heights Center, a strip mall on Broadway, just beyond the Burleigh Road intersection, in Bangor.
Dill, 58, comes from a customer-first industry where he often opened early to make pickup convenient for contractors who needed supplies. It’s a lesson he has taken to heart for his own business, with a simple policy.
“Whenever I’m here, we’re open,” he said.
Officially though, Dill’s Outdoors will be open Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Dill’s Outdoors features a spacious 2,600-square-foot retail space with another 400 square feet of storage. Dill said his wife, Laura, first spotted the space while she was shopping at a quilt shop next door.
That was in September. And now, just more than three months later, Dill’s Outdoors is welcoming customers.
“My goal is to grow this and fill this whole space, but it’s recommendations from people [that will determine exactly what we’ll sell],” Dill said.
For now, there are some firearms and ice fishing equipment available, as well as plenty of cold-weather clothing for traditional Maine winter activities. Dill said he will be selling live bait soon — possibly by next weekend — and he said he just received word that the store has been approved as an official state game tagging station for deer, turkey and black bear.
“It’s going to be as complete as I can make it for outdoor needs, meaning hunting, fishing and hopefully kayaking,” Dill said.
Another goal is to carry as much American-made and Maine-made inventory as possible. To that end, he has lined up two Maine distributors who will supply his bass baits. He’s receiving a shipment of Maine-made grunt calls for deer hunters. He will also sell locally sourced wooden fly boxes, benches and picnic tables.
Local fly-tier Ron McKusick’s work is featured, and Dill said he will try to get flies from a couple more tiers before fishing season in the spring. He plans to carry a wide variety of fishing lures and flies, but said he won’t be selling fly tying material, which can take up a lot of space. He plans to feature Ruger guns, among other brands, and said he hopes to sell some used guns in the future.
But as he fills the space, he promises to keep aisles wide in order to make sure that customers are comfortable. One of the things he liked about the building was that it was a one-story facility that made it accessible to all. That will help him serve those with mobility issues, he said.
“I want to be able to serve everybody … I want you to be able to come in, browse around, feel comfortable, and if there’s people in here, you’re not elbow to elbow,” he said. “I’ve gone into many places, and they just tried to stack too much stuff.”
The store seems a bit empty for now, but that will change soon enough. Dill said he plans to start decorating soon, and a couple of massive moose mounts will fill the now blank wall behind the front counter. And he said he is happy to listen to what customers hope to find in their new local outdoor store.
One final point of interest: Avid deer hunters from the area may recognize the Dill’s Outdoors logo. It’s an image of “The Millvale Monster,” a buck taken in 2015 by Dill’s stepson, Ben Thibodeau. The deer had either 18 or 19 points, depending upon who’s counting.
“When we had the idea [of opening the store], I said, ‘Can I use The Monster as the logo?’ and he said he’d love it,” Dill said.