Fabric & Firearms

Trio Of Businesses Under One
Roof Offers Surprising Advantage

Angie Russell’s three shops — HighFlyer Arms, Quilting Essentials & More, and Flying High
Engraving — are all in the same space at 10 S 5th St., Warrenton, Va.

Whether you need protection from the cold or criminals, Angie Russell has you covered.

The former U.S. Air Force spouse owns a trifecta of hometown stores catering to almost anyone who wants a gun, a quilt or an extra personal touch to just about anything. 

Owning three completely different businesses may seem abnormal. Angie’s diverse entrepreneurship is extraordinary because all three businesses are under the same roof. Walk through the front door at 10 S Fifth St., in rural Warrenton, Va., and turn right to find yourself at Highflyer Arms. Turn left, and you’re in Quilting Essentials & More. Split the difference and walk to the back to find Flying High Engraving.

“I believe we have a fantastic combination of shops. Think of an old mercantile: everything you need in one place; one-stop shopping,” said Russell. 

The odd combination of commerce choices at first glance lends to some rather unique unsolicited marketing.

“You might be surprised at how many husbands come in and say ‘I need to tell my wife about this; she is a quilter.’ Or the opposite: the wife comes in and says her husband loves guns: ‘He will never believe this shop.’ Believe it or not, they all complement each other,” Angie remarked. “I believe our uniqueness has made many people curious, leading them to come and check it out. Men are dragging in their ladies, and ladies are dragging in their men. A win-win in my book: new customers and couples spending time together.”

Angie Russell, right, shows off a Mossberg shotgun she engraved as a
birthday present for Jay’s wife, Wendy Pinsky.

How It Started …

The three-tiered mini-mall of rural merchandising didn’t start out as one odd idea; it resulted from a retired U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady pilot’s lifelong dream, his savvy wife and a little business luck.

The gun shop came first in 2014.

“My husband, David ‘Super Dave’ Russell, always loved guns,” Angie began. (“Super Dave” was Dave’s call sign as a pilot). “It began in high school when he was on the JROTC rifle team and continued in college at the U.S. Air Force Academy. One of our many assignments in the military was at Elmendorf AFB, in Anchorage, Alaska, where Dave took to hunting and tinkering with building his own rifles. Dave’s new hobby began.”

Angie said Dave was ready for a change after 24 years in the Air Force and several years as a government contractor.  

“Dave and our son-in-law, Will Bennett, opened an after-work, evening and Saturday hobby business in Old Town Warrenton,” she recalled. “The space was tiny, and I believe they started with 10 long guns, 89 pistols, four [AR] receivers, a little ammo, some patches and AR-15 lower parts kits.”

According to Angie, the shop transferred to a manufacturing license a few years later.  

She said if Dave built any custom guns for anyone, ATF regulations stated he had to have “Highflyer Arms Warrenton, VA,” on the firearm, which led to the purchase of the engraving machine.  

“This was the beginning of Flying High Engraving,” Angie said.

… How It’s Going

With Dave’s dream still reaching cruising altitude, Angie’s dreams began to taxi down the make-it-happen runway of her life.

“While Dave had opened his hobby business, I was still working my dream job at the local quilt shop, but in Feb. 2019, the owner decided to retire,” she shared. “This moved me to work full-time with Dave and to run the laser engraver at Flying High Engraving and Highflyer Arms. Quilting was still my passion, so in Oct. 2020, Quilting Essentials & More began with a display of my favorite Aurifil quilting thread and a few bolts of fabric.”

Unfortunately, three years into their husband-wife team business, Dave lost his battle with cancer, passing away Feb. 9, 2023. Just over one year later, Angie and all of her friends and family who work with her continue to mourn his loss while building upon Dave and Angie’s dreams coming true.

One key member of the team is Highflyer Arms Manager Ryan Randolph. Young, intelligent and dripping with integrity, Ryan is the consummate gun shop guru for today’s diverse market of experienced and novice gun owners.

Randolph sees the combination of three stores under one roof advantageous for a few reasons, some not so apparent to the stereotypes many people might assume frequent gun stores or quilt shops, for that matter.

“Sharing a room with the quilting part of the store and having the sweet ladies over there also helps to create a more inviting environment for a wider range of people to learn and purchase firearms for personal protection, many of whom would not otherwise consider purchasing a firearm,” said Randolph. “The engraving business is perfect for our type of work. We specialize in NFA sales, particularly silencers, which for many is a stepping point into building their own short-barreled rifle [SBR]. SBRs must legally be engraved once approved and assembled. Engraving is also perfect for our type of FFL [07] as we manufacture rifles from time to time, and when we do, they are also legally required to be engraved with our store name and place of manufacture.”

“People Skills” Value

Angie sees great value in the three stores’ various products and personalities. Still, she also considers the stark differences an opportunity to hone customer service skills, a commonality all successful businesses share.

“I believe the biggest skill we have all improved on is our people skills,” said Angie. “We welcome everyone who comes through the door; it doesn’t matter which side they are headed. Our customers are more than just dollar signs. We want to build longtime friendships. I haven’t asked the guys to learn anything about the quilting side, but the ladies have embraced learning about handgun safety and self-defense and have taken a concealed carry class with our certified NRA instructor, Bill Little.”

Ryan validated Angie’s belief that, oddly enough, the three stores feed each other new customers.

“Working in the same space as a quilting/fabrics store and engraving business provides a unique marketing and integration of customers for a firearms business,” said Ryan. “Many customers who come in for firearms are interested in learning how to quilt or bringing their spouse back to learn. The inverse of that is also true; many firearms customers have been introduced to Highflyer through their spouse who first went to the quilting side of the store.”

The Negative Side

Despite mostly positive experiences, Angie admits having three stores and a wide range of clients can sometimes produce negative feedback.

“Do I believe any of the stores have hurt business for either of the others? If anything, I would say that the gun shop may have hurt the quilt shop,” she said. “I have some customers who are completely against guns. It’s their right to not like them. If they feel uncomfortable coming into the shop because of the guns, they’re welcome to shop online — everything in the quilting shop is online, and I would be happy to mail it to them or deliver it curbside.”

Angie has had success, though, bringing anti-gunners to our side.

“I would also like to say I have helped many ladies not be afraid of guns, and I have connected them with our certified instructor to help them not be afraid, which also leads them to enjoy shooting and get their concealed carry,” she added.

Angie is the lone employee who can and does work behind the counter of all three businesses.

“I am the only employee who works all of the stores,” Angie said. “I have my seller’s I.D., so I can sell guns and do background checks. My technique for selling guns is, ‘This one is pretty!’ So usually, I let the guys do their thing and am their backup if they need background checks done.”

Although Angie works in all three businesses, her heart belongs to quilting.

“I have to say I favor the quilt shop. It’s my passion,” Angie said. “I love what I can create with fabric. But just as much as I enjoy quilting, I also love to teach others to quilt. When they complete their first quilt, that big smile on their face is such a rewarding feeling. Balancing the other stores has been a challenge. However, I have surrounded myself with an amazing team of professionals and talented people.”

Advice For Entrepreneurs

According to Angie, all three stores continue to prosper, and despite not planning this trio of oddly placed businesses from the beginning, she and her employees are doing well.

“Have fun with it. Think outside the box. It’s fun to be different.”

That’s the advice from Angie to fellow business owners who might consider odd-couple business models.   

“Well, our combination is working,” she added. “Dave and I loved going to work with each other every day. We loved being together. We bounced ideas off each other and moved forward together. Now that he’s gone, I’ll continue to move forward with our dreams. I’ll keep his dream alive until it’s no fun anymore. Right now, I’m still having lots of fun.” 

Fly high, Angie. Fly high.

To Read More Shooting Industry March 2024 Issue Now