New tackle shop opens in Elkridge

April 14, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

Although landlocked, Howard County offers the recreational fisherman plenty of opportunity to cast a line. Mike Barr figures it also offers opportunity for a tackle shop.

He reasons that there are several respectable fishing holes in the area, such as the Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs on the county's southern border, and the Patapsco and Patuxent rivers. Also, says Mr. Barr, "I know a lot of fishermen who live in the area and I also knew Columbia had a lot of families with young kids just getting interested in fishing."

So, after 10 years of dreaming of opening his own tackle shop, Mr. Barr bailed out of the printing business he'd spent 30 years in and plowed his heart and soul into launching a fishing supplies shop.

Hooked on Fishing opened last month in step with the March ritual of many an avid fishermen -- pulling tackle and line out of winter storage for the first cast of spring.

Located in the Lark Brown Shopping Center in Elkridge, just off Route 108 near the Columbia Restaurant Park, the shop is one of just two tackle shops in the county. The other, Wolf's Fly Fishing & Fine Guns, is on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City.

While Wolf's trade is the fly fisherman and hunter, Mr. Barr's shop specializes in tackle, bait and other supplies for spinning and bait casting in fresh and tidal waters. The shop has a particularly deep inventory of freshwater bass tackle, and Mr. Barr stocks a light supply of saltwater gear.

"The main market I'm targeting is the recreational fishermen because that's the kind of fishing I do and know best." So far, says Mr. Barr, the business has been patronized well by parents coming in with children who've recently been hooked by fishing.

While most tackle shop suppliers have catalogs larger than the Bible, Mr. Barr found selecting his stock to be a relatively painless task. First, he got plenty of advice of what items would move well from two supply salesmen whose lines he carries, and he decided to favor tackle that he'd had success with over the years.

To wit: The shop features a "worm and grub bar" stocked with inexpensive artificial lures. "These are the cheapest and the best lures you can have. They're my personal favorite," says Mr. Barr. "For $2 a person can get enough lures to go fishing for a whole day and have a ball."

Also, he is attempting to stock handcrafted lures made by local craftsmen, such as a line of bass lures made by Jim and Robin Wiegrand, a Cumberland couple.

"I want to support the Maryland craftsmen and I think locally made products will have a certain appeal to my customers," says Mr. Barr.

The shop's stock of fishing reels ($26 to $98) and rods ($13 to $125), are mid-line equipment targeted to the core market he's trying to attract, the recreational fisherman.

He also sells Chesapeake Bay fishing licenses, a line of area fishing maps, and is offering instruction for novices and the occasional fishermen. Mr. Barr plans to add a reel-repair service.

So far, he's finding his busiest days to be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (The shop opens at 5:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and, yes, he's got customers at dawn.)

Once school is out for the summer, Mr. Barr expects business to pick up during the middle of the week.

Start-up costs to open his dream business came to about $40,000, Mr. Barr said. Those costs included buying his first inventory and a sophisticated live bait tank, leasing the 1,100-square-foot shop space, and getting a sign above the front door. Purchasing the entire "Hooked On Fishing" sign turned out to be expensive -- more than $3,000 -- so Mr. Barr settled for the word "Fishing" for now. The missing words will have to come later.

"Hopefully, I'll have a strong spring and be able to get that taken care of."

Mr. Barr hasn't been dismayed by such business hurdles. In fact, he expected plenty of them. While in the printing sales business, he'd helped several new clients get started.

"I got to see a lot of the aggravations you run into getting a business going," he said. He also found he had a ready network of people to call on to help him get his own business going, from electricians and sign makers, to people who knew the right equipment auctions to attend for a deal on a cash register.

As Mr. Barr got closer to moving ahead with his venture, he turned to old clients in the printing business for advice. The best advice he got, he recalls: "If opening a tackle job is what you really want to do, stop thinking about it and do it."

Starting the shop has, though, put a crimp on Mr. Barr's time for his favorite pastime. The Catonsville resident now finds himself working six days a week, sometimes from 5:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.

"I really enjoy running the shop. It was something I always wanted to do and now here I am doing it. It's been an awful lot of hard work, but the shop is mine."

Since opening the shop last month, Mr. Barr has had just one day off.

He spent the day fishing. Of course.

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