We’ve all been there. Pushed through the heavy, industrial-grade oaken double doors of a national retailer to an ocular orgasm of Patagonia in every price range and style from New! This! Season! to last season’s leftovers at 50% off.
But did you know you can experience the same sensation at locally-owned shops like the North Platte River Fly Shop in Casper, WY? Big isn’t always better (can’t believe I just said that). At small shops you can still get that big retailer experience without drowning in the void that is eternal aisles of New! This! Season!
There’s an intimacy to the small, locally-owned shop but intimacy is only one aspect.
Closer to source, mission and area of operations
Before opening the North Platte River Fly Shop in 1994, Mark Boname was an avid fly fisherman working for Fedex and guiding on the side. He felt the existing fly fishing shops in Casper did not provide adequate inventories and/or services for the local fly fishing community.
So with his background in fisheries biology and guiding, he opened the fly shop to provide the community with expert advice and knowledge gained from years as a fishing guide.
Today, Mark and his guide service partners know the fishing scene a tad better than the Denver REI.
Hiring locals, as well as retaining them to build up and maintain loyalty with shoppers, is a critical component of the locally-owned shop. “Both Hannah and Jeri have been here for over five years and are energetic, personable and knowledgeable,” says Boname. “If you need a personal shopper, they gladly fill that role for you. They’ll help you select everything from the right fly rod to the right Patagonia dress.”
Keeping a local and retained employee base also helps drive North Platte River Fly Shop’s purchasing decisions for what apparel to sell in the store. As the largest Patagonia dealer in Wyoming, this can be a daunting task.
According to Boname, “We try to carry the most popular items in the store in the colors we think will be the best sellers. This is where I’ll rely on Hanna and Jeri. It is an ongoing learning curve that we refine every year as to the amount we order and stock. Generally we stock items that will crossover to both fishing and every day fashionable street wear.”
Stakeholder-driven not stockholder-driven
Many national retailers do support local grassroots initiatives—eventually. But it can be a lengthy process. After all, an idea has been analyzed and re-analyzed a dozen times before it makes its way up food chain of corporate bureaucracy.
Once there, it gets analyzed and re-analyzed a dozen more times for the Board of Directors to approve only if it makes sense to the stockholders.
“Decision making is based on what makes sense for the community. “Healing Waters helps disabled veterans. The Wyoming Two Fly Foundation supports river conservation and clean-up. To lend support to these organizations just made sense. They help the community in so many ways.”
Healthy for the community
Studies have shown that buying from an independent, locally owned business is healthier for your community. More of your money stays local and this helps to create jobs that strengthen the community’s economic base.
“Even online sales have a way of making their way back to the community of Casper,” says Boname. “And that’s what allows us to create jobs and support local initiatives that benefit the community. ”