TRAVERSE CITY – The first Monday in October was naturally busy at Archery Gauthier.
Behind the counter, Greg McDonald was working on a compound bow. Next to him, Jim Gauthier was repairing a crossbow. One side of the counter had the new owner of the archery shop, the other had the old one.
It was business as usual.
Even though the transfer of ownership took place at the end of July, the start of the archery season in Michigan on October 1 felt like a more formal transition in the business that humbly began in the basement of a building in downtown Traverse City in 1980 and has become “the state’s oldest professional archery store,” according to Gauthier.
“It’s been a great career,” said Gauthier, 66, of the business he started on July 22, 1980 in the basement of what is now Friendly and sold to McDonald’s on July 29, 2021. “Not bad for a guy who graduated.” second in the bottom of its class (from Traverse City St. Francis).
“It’s roughly three-quarters of my life.”
“Every customer who walks in has a story about Jim,” said McDonald, standing outside the home of Gauthier’s Archery since 1990, less than a mile south of Chum’s Corner at 1788 M-37. “It’s a credit to him that he can operate for so long and keep customers coming back year after year. “
These customers will continue to find all wire pom pom aluminum arrows. And Gauthier faithful won’t have to wonder what the new store is called.
“The name is going to stick,” McDonald said. “Not much is going to change. There will be some small adjustments, taking into account the new technology.
“But it’s going to be archery completely; we’re not going to start carrying guns or anything. We’re going to stick with one thing and be really good at what we do.
There will always be compound bows from Mathews and Hoyt Archery for sale at Gauthier. TenPoint, Raven, and Mission crossbows will still be available for purchase. A wide selection of arrows like Easton and Victory.
“Having the best brand names helps,” McDonald said. “It’s top of the line at all levels in the store. “
Gauthier nearly sold the 3,500-square-foot, 2½-acre business in 2019, but the deal fell through when COVID hit.
Several other possible deals didn’t work out either, which Gauthier is grateful for in hindsight.
“We’ve been working on it since the start of the year basically, the end of last year,” said Gauthier, who added that McDonald’s passion for the place sets him apart. “I had several offers on the spot, but he seemed to be the best candidate.”
McDonald said he visited Gauthier’s Archery as a customer last October and was impressed with the prompt service he received. He then visited his brother, who told him Gauthier was back in the market.
That was all McDonald’s, who had hunted since his teenage years, needed to hear. It didn’t take long for the man who enlisted in the National Guard in the aftermath of 9/11 and served 6 years in the military, including Irag, to react.
“It immediately occurred to me to be an outdoor enthusiast and have been archery all my life,” recalls McDonald. “I’ve always wanted to do something in the field of hunting. I said to my wife, “If we can make this work, this is my dream job. Talking about hunting and getting people ready for the hunting season doesn’t get any better than that.
McDonald’s – who owns Verano Tan since 2017 and Bliss Tanning Studio since summer 2020, both on Eighth Street – quickly owned an archery store.
“I came here as a customer,” McDonald said. “I didn’t know the clientele and the size of a small business. It’s been a good few months for us. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Gauthier says the same about when he owned the business, able to turn his love of the outdoors into a lifelong career. But it also came with some big bumps along the way.
Gauthier’s first taste as a business owner came to Field and Stream on State Street in Traverse City. It lasted three years.
“I went bankrupt at 25,” he said. “It was the best education I have ever had. I did the exact opposite of what I did and here I am today.
The biggest lesson, Gauthier said, was to be the one responsible.
“I had three partnerships and they all failed,” Gauthier joked. “One was a wedding, the other was a cabin, and the other was a business.”
The other lesson Gauthier learned when he opened his own archery store in 1980 was to provide the best customer service. Gauthier said he always tries to greet a customer the first three feet inside the store, even if he’s busy helping someone else.
Gauthier said he kept a book where he wrote down the name, date and type of bow sold. This has proven to be invaluable if a game is lost or broken, but also for forging “fantastic relationships”.
Gauthier estimates that he has sold “more than 20,000 bows and crossbows” during his 41 years of activity. But he also realized that more and more customers were asking to speak to his “technician” at work, Eli Purvis.
The previous owner said the technology keeps changing so quickly, “if you haven’t been there for 5 years, you’ve wasted 15 years.”
“It was about time,” said Gauthier. “I started to get to the point where the technology was beyond me. “
Gauthier said the archery store has a few seasons. He said there are 100 people who participate in shooting leagues, which he equates to bowling, from January to April. Business is really picking up as the archery season begins in Michigan on October 1.
“I return the inventory 4-5 times a year, 2-3 times in September and October,” he said.
Not owning the store allowed Jim Gauthier to have different opportunities in 2021.
He already has a boar hunt in Tennessee scheduled for later this month with his daughter, Lauren Gauthier. Then there’s a stay in Florida this winter with his wife, Terri, which will last a month or more.
“I can’t complain,” he said. “It’s been a great life. Now I have time to do things I didn’t have before. I can go hunting. I can hike and bike and spend time with my wife.
“I went small game hunting for the first time in probably 30 years on opening day (September 15). I missed it, just go out and walk in the woods.
Gauthier said he also misses loyal customers. That’s why the previous owner said he was just a phone call away and ready to jump behind the counter.
“I’m a little bored at this point,” said Gauthier with a laugh, admitting that McDonald’s “is the guy who can take it to the next level.”
“I miss that. I miss visiting with clients. It’s always a lot of fun working with people.
McDonald said he appreciated being called, saying if he called Gauthier as he prepared to leave Monday afternoon, his company’s namesake would turn around quickly, even though he was already on the phone. late for an appointment.
“He backed me up 100 percent,” McDonald said. “If I need anything, I just have to call him. This support is not something you see a lot of these days.