She Sells More Than Seashells

Woman-Owned Stores Roll Out The Welcome Mat

As more women enter the shooting sports, it’s no surprise a percentage of them also will become interested in the business side of shooting. These women — whether they own or manage a gun shop or a range, or both — are part of a growing trend that is broadening the appeal of guns and shooting to an ever-widening audience.

Generational Guns: On A Growth Trend

Heather Carpenter, who owns Generational Guns in Bondurant, Iowa, with her husband Bo, has always been interested in business, but she never dreamed she would own or operate a gun shop. Her family wasn’t involved in firearms, and she knew nothing about them when she met Bo.

“He was interested in them, but it was his thing and I wasn’t involved in it,” she recalled. “I didn’t really get interested until we started talking about making a business of it. Now we each have our own gun safe. He has his collection and I have mine.”

The couple began their business in their garage. Half of the garage was set up for gunsmithing, and half was set up for retail sales.

“Bo is very mechanical and likes working on guns, so he took care of that side of things,” Heather said. “I did the retail sales part of the business.” 

The business soon outgrew their garage, and eight years ago the couple moved the store to its present location. With the move, their roles in the business shifted. Bo still runs the gunsmithing part of the business, and now he also manages the retail portion as well. Heather does more back-office work, handling paperwork and making sure the store is in compliance with ATF and other regulations. 

“Handling all the paperwork and all the compliance stuff has been one of our biggest challenges,” she relayed. “A lot of people don’t realize the degree of my involvement with the business because I’m not as visible as I used to be. I’m very involved on a day-to-day basis, because the details I handle are very important to keeping us compliant.”

Generational Guns has continued to grow in its current location, and Heather shared they’ll soon need more space.

“We are up to 10 employees, including the two of us,” she informed. “Our area is growing, and space is both difficult to find and expensive. We’re watching for the right location, but we haven’t found it yet.”

One of the things Heather likes most about the business is the sense of family that has come about with their customer base. 

“People come in and bring their children and we watch those children grow up,” she said. “We have regulars who come in all the time.” 

One thing Heather has noticed is people aren’t as patient as they were before COVID. In the past, customers were willing to wait for what they want; today, they want what they want — now.

Bristlecone Shooting: A Family-Friendly Range From The Get-Go

In Lakewood, Colo., Jacquelyn Clark owns Bristlecone Shooting, Training and Retail Center with her husband Bryan. Clark wasn’t involved in law enforcement or the military, and she didn’t grow up around guns, so the step into running a range and retail center was a stretch for her.

When Clark and her husband were first married, they lived in suburban Atlanta. Soon after they moved there, they had a home-defense scare in the middle of the night that turned out to be walnuts from the neighbor’s tree falling and rolling down their roof.

“We hid behind the bed with a golf club until the police arrived,” Clark said. “It took them seven minutes, which seemed like an eternity.”

As a result of their experience, the Clarks decided they needed a home-defense plan, and purchased a firearm.

“Once we made the decision to do that, Bryan researched it and made a spreadsheet of all the different handguns out there. I was pretty much not interested, but it was what he wanted to do. The only thing I said was ‘If it’s going to be in my house, I want to know how to use it. I’m not going be afraid of it, and I’m not going to have somebody use it on me.’” 

Clark started going to the range to learn to use the gun, and fell in love with the recreational side of shooting.

“Shooting became what we did on date night,” she noted. “We ended up joining a range in Atlanta that was run by two women.”

A couple of years later, the Clarks moved to Ohio and found a great range there; then the family moved to Colorado.

“One of the first things we did when we moved here was try to find a nice indoor range that was family friendly like what we had found in Atlanta and Ohio,” Clark said. 

When they didn’t find the kind of range where they wanted to shoot, they decided to build one.

“It was kind of a dinner conversation that became serious,” she recalled. Bryan was a real estate attorney and Jacquelyn was in business development, so they already had a lot of the skills they needed to be successful at starting a new business. Eight years ago, they opened Bristlecone.

Today, the store comprises about 25,000 sq. ft. of combined range, retail shop and gunsmithing area. The range includes 14 lanes separated into two separate bays. One bay is pistols only, and the other one is a tactical bay where they allow rifles and shotguns. The retail space is about 6,000 sq. ft.; inventory focuses on home defense, personal defense and recreational and competitive shooting. The store has two full-time gunsmiths and two classrooms where instructors teach a wide variety of self-defense courses, with a total of 30 employees.

Bristlecone offers reloading supplies and equipment in a unique way.

“We have a business that operates inside of our store called The Reloading Zone,” Clark shared. “They sell all reloading components and equipment, but they’re a separate company from us. They rent space from us — so they’re like a Starbucks inside a grocery store.”

The Clarks have considered either expanding or adding another location, but Jacquelyn feels this economic climate isn’t a time for aggressive expansion.

“This year, we’re all about getting through an economic downturn,” she explained. “So, any discussion of other locations, or expanding the location we have, is on hold. We also have some major state laws that may be passed, which will affect our long-term planning as well.”

I try to take the fear out of gun ownership and the fear out of defensive shooting and focus more on sport. Jessica Ulrich, Owner The Marksman Indoor Range in Waterloo, Neb.

Jessica Ulrich, Owner
The Marksman Indoor Range in Waterloo, Neb.

The Marksman Indoor Range: Taking Fear Out Of Gun Ownership

Jessica Ulrich owns The Marksman Indoor Range in Waterloo, Neb., along with three other family members. She and her family had talked for years about opening a range in their area, because shooting is something the whole family enjoys. 

“I grew up with a father who hunted,” Ulrich said. “There were shotguns and rifles in the house, but my sister and I had zero interest. But as we got into our 20s, it’s something we wanted to cross off our bucket lists. We would go to the range with our father and he would load the gun and hand it to us and we’d shoot, and as soon as it was empty we’d hand it back to him.” 

Then in her 30s, Ulrich was involved in the Von Maur shooting in 2007, where more than a dozen people were shot in the first mass shooting that ever took place in Omaha. In the days after, Ulrich started taking training classes.

“I started training out of fear,” she said. “I did a lot of research and talked to many instructors and surrounded myself with the industry, because I was scared.”

Today, Ulrich has transcended that fear. She said she doesn’t want the women she teaches to learn out of fear.

“It’s the worst way to learn,” she stated. “I try to take the fear out of gun ownership and the fear out of defensive shooting and focus more on sport. I introduce women to the sport of shooting.” 

According to Ulrich, 35% of her clientele is female.

“I stay in the industry because it’s what I love,” she expressed. “I cannot imagine a day going by without training or talking about guns.”

The Marksman Indoor Range is a range first and a retailer second. Today, the store is run by four family members and 10 part-time employees. Jessica and her mother, Chris Anderson, are heavily involved in the operational side of things, handling staffing for day-to-day operations on the range. Jessica and her father, Kirk Anderson, are both instructors, and Kyle Ulrich does maintenance and other behind-the-scenes chores.

“We all are very different and play very different roles in the range, and it works,” Ulrich said. “My mother has a medical background, so she does a lot of trauma training and suicide awareness. My dad was a salesman and a businessman, so he does all the accounting and the books. I come from the hospitality industry, so I’m all about sales and taking care of people. My husband is a blue-collar worker, so he’s in the dirt every day and does all the behind-the-scenes construction sorts of things. He’s an avid hunter where I’m more of a pistol gal and I shoot competitively; he puts the meat on the table.”

When they opened the range six years ago, the family dreamed one day they could be what they are right now. 

“Every month brings a different surprise, and a different element to the business,” she noted. “We’ve slowly integrated some competitive shooting, IDPA, USPSA and some things like that. We’ve added some e-commerce and AR-building courses. I’m just blown away with how far we have come in such a short time.”

With women like these three continuing to join the trade side of the industry, the days of simply “shrink it and pink it” are long gone.

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