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Gun Shops in Big Boxes

Most of the time when one thinks of a gun shop, they imagine a fairly small and cramped space. At least, that’s been my experience with a majority of shops I’ve visited. Even the larger spaces I’ve seen (outside of the big box retailers themselves) aren’t actually terribly big. So, it’s rather amusing to read about a guy who wanted to open a gun range and gun shop who found an empty big box store to buy.

Perhaps the most unusual use of a former big-box store is William James’s Arms Room gun shop and shooting range, which opened last year in a former Circuit City store south of Houston. Mr. James spent nearly $5 million to buy the 20,000-square-foot space and convert it into a shooting range, a price he considered a bargain compared with building from scratch. The Arms Room offers handgun training courses in addition to traditional shooting practice, all in a popular shopping center anchored by Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. stores.

“It was sort of providential,” Mr. James said in his Arms Room office, surrounded by antique swords and modern firearms. “I never dreamed of a place like this.”

The local PetSmart & Mattress Giant have both recognized the gun range for bringing in new customers. The Home Depot was willing to go on record before he opened that they had no problem with a gun range in the shopping center.

The only Pennsylvania example cited for a non-traditional use of retail space was a community theater in Harrisburg mall. It’s too bad. There’s an empty anchor store at one of our local malls that could use a gun range. :)

9 Responses to “Gun Shops in Big Boxes”

  1. PhilaBOR says:

    “Jin Dong, the manager of a Mattress Giant store that shares a wall with the Arms Room, is one of the gun range’s happy neighbors. “People do come in here with guns, and that’s kind of weird. But they have brought a lot of traffic. It’s way better than nothing,” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t have to worry about getting robbed, that’s for sure.”[emphasis mine]”
    They get it!

  2. Tam says:

    First indoor range I ever shot at was in a strip center in a store that used to be either a small grocery or big drug store. And it was adjacent, as in “shared a wall” adjacent, to a Lionel Playworld.

  3. Dannytheman says:

    I have had many nights where I have thought of opening a Gun Shop with a range. I was going to model it after Harley Davidsons dealerships and use their clever ideas to get people to come out and visit the store.

    But I have small chance to get a 5 million dollar loan..

    • Bitter says:

      There are definitely lots of former retails spaces available all over the area. I think there are still two anchors empty at a local shopping center with a busy Barnes & Noble. :)

  4. ExurbanKevin says:

    I wonder if zoning laws have anything to do with this. With the exception of Scottsdale Gun Club and Bass Pro Shop, all the indoor ranges in the Phoenix area are in light industrial strip centers. Maybe it’s because it’s cheaper to lease space there than in retail spots, but it’d sure be nice to have gun ranges become as accepted as any other sporting goods store.

    • Bitter says:

      The guy in the article did cite the cost as a problem for the location for many gun ranges. What exists right now that may not have existed at the time many gun ranges opened is a glut of commercial properties with landlords who have seen years of lost revenues. The article example said the property used to be a Circuit City – they closed the last stores in January of 2009. There’s no telling how long that storefront was losing money for the owner. A gun range proposal now sounds pretty good considering it will bring in at least some rent.

      The shopping plaza I mentioned in the comment above had a Linens ‘n Things that shut down in 2008 and it is still empty. It sits next to the former location of a furniture store that shut down before I even moved here that same year. It’s across from a mall that’s had an empty Boscov’s (local retailer similar to JC Penney, I believe – never been in one) since 2008. That’s why I suspect it’s as much opportunity as it is zoning.

      Actually, as a tidbit of randomness, the aforementioned shopping plaza actually used to be an outdoor gun range. When they wanted to develop it into a shopping plaza, the developer bought the land for relocation & built the ranges for the gun club.

    • Scott says:

      I wonder how far the 7th Circuit’s Ezell opinion will help reduce zoning restrictions for people to do such a thing. I’ve contemplated similar use of old retail space for gun ranges but haven’t the finances or the business acumen.

  5. Ian Argent says:

    There’s a Dick’s Sporting Goods going in by me to replace an empty Circuit City. Not a range, buy as best as I think I will get in NJ.

  6. Andy says:

    Adventure Outdoors here in Atlanta is moving into an old Cub Foods grocery space that anchors a strip development. New range and a cafe planned.

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