New owner keeps Gauthier’s Archery on target | Business
TRAVERSE CITY – The first Monday in October was understandably busy at Gauthier’s Archery.
Behind the counter, Greg McDonald was working on a compound bow. Next to him, Jim Gauthier was repairing a crossbow. On one side of the counter stood the new owner of the bow shop, on the other the former owner.
It was the same as always.
Although the transfer of ownership occurred in late July, the start of Michigan’s archery season on October 1 felt like an official transition in the business that began modestly in 1980 in the basement of a building in downtown Traverse City and became “the oldest pro – State shop that is all about archery, ”said Gauthier.
“It was a great career,” said the 66-year-old Gauthier of the business he founded on July 22, 1980 in the basement of what is now Amical and sold to McDonald on July 29, 2021. “Not bad for a guy who graduated second from the last of his class (from Traverse City St. Francis).
“That’s basically three quarters of my life.”
“Every customer who walks in has a story about Jim,” said McDonald, who has stood outside the Gauthier’s Archery home since 1990, less than a mile south of Chum’s Corner at 1788 M-37. “It is an honor for him that he can operate for so long and that customers keep coming back year after year.”
These customers can still find everything from aluminum arrows to twine tassels. And whoever is loyal to Gauthier’s does not have to wonder what the new shop is called.
“The name will stay,” said McDonald. “Not much will change. There will be some small tweaks to keep up with the new technology.
“But it will remain entirely with archery; We’re not going to start carrying guns or anything. We’ll stick to one thing and be really good at what we do. “
Gauthier’s continues to offer compound bows from Mathews and Hoyt Archery. TenPoint, Raven, and Mission crossbows will continue to be available for purchase. A wide range of Easton and Victory arrows.
“Having the best brand names helps,” said McDonald. “It’s the very best in the store.”
Gauthier almost sold the 3,500 square foot store on 2½ acres in 2019, but the deal failed when COVID hit.
A few other possible deals didn’t work out either, for which Gauthier is grateful in retrospect.
“We’ve been working on it since the beginning of the year, basically at the end of last year,” said Gauthier, who added that McDonald’s passion for the place made him what it was. “I had several offers on site, but it seemed the best fit.”
McDonald said he visited Gauthier’s Archery as a customer last October and was impressed with the timely service he received. Then he visited his brother, who told him Gauthier was back on the market.
That was all McDonald, who hunted from a young age, had to hear. It wasn’t long before the man who signed up for the National Guard the day after September 11 and served for six years in the army, including the Irag, reacted.
“It immediately clicked in my head that I was a nature lover and that I was an archery man all my life,” McDonald recalled. “I’ve always wanted to do something in the hunting business. I said to my wife: ‘If we can do this, it will be my dream job.’ Talking about the hunt and preparing people for the hunting season, it couldn’t be better. “
McDonald – who has owned Verano Tan since 2017 and Bliss Tanning Studio since summer 2020, both on Eighth Street – soon owned a bow shop.
“I came in here as a customer,” said McDonald. “I didn’t know how big the customer base is and how big this small company is. It’s been a good few months for us. I couldn’t ask for more. “
Gauthier says the same about the time he owned the company and was able to turn his love for the outdoors into a lifelong career. But it also came with some major bumps along the way.
Gauthier’s first taste as a business owner came from Field and Stream on State Street in Traverse City. That took three years.
“I was bankrupt at 25 (age),” he said. “That was the best training I’ve ever had. I did everything the other way around and I’m here today. “
The biggest lesson, said Gauthier, is how to be the only one in charge.
“I had three partnerships and they all failed,” joked Gauthier. “One was a marriage, one was a hut, and one was a business.”
The other lesson Gauthier learned when he opened his own bow business in 1980 was how to provide the best service to the customer. Gauthier said he always tried to greet a customer the first ten feet into the store, even when they were busy helping someone else.
Gauthier said he kept a book in which he recorded the name, date and type of sheet sold. It was valuable when a part was lost or broken, but also for “making some fantastic relationships”.
Gauthier estimates that he has sold “over 20,000 bows and crossbows” in his 41 years in the business. But he also found that more and more customers were asking for his “technician” at work, Eli Purvis.
The former owner said technology is changing so quickly: “If you weren’t around for 5 years, you’d be 15.”
“It was time,” said Gauthier. “I was starting to get to the point where technology passed me by.”
Gauthier said the bow shop has several seasons. He said that from January to April there are 100 people participating in shooting leagues, which he equates to bowling. Business really picks up as the start of Michigan archery season approaches on October 1st.
“I turn inventory 4-5 times a year, 2-3 times in September and October,” he said.
Foregoing the store opened up a number of options for Jim Gauthier in 2021.
He’s already scheduled a wild boar hunt in Tennessee for later this month with his daughter Lauren Gauthier. Then there is a stay in Florida this winter with his wife Terri that will last a month or more.
“I can’t complain,” he said. “It was a great life. Now I have time to do things that I haven’t done before. I can go hunting. I can hike and bike and spend time with my wife.
“On the opening day (September 15), I was hunting small game for the first time in probably 30 years. I missed that, just going out and walking in the forest. “
Gauthier said he also missed the loyal customers. So the former owner said he was just a phone call away and ready to hop behind the counter.
“I’m kind of bored now,” said Gauthier with a laugh, admitting that McDonald’s “the guy who can take it to the next level.”
“I miss it. I miss visiting customers. It’s still great fun to work with people.”
McDonald said he appreciated calling Gauthier to leave on Monday afternoon, the namesake of his business would quickly turn around even if he was late for an appointment.
“He supported us 100 percent,” said McDonald. “If I need anything, I just have to give him a call. You don’t see this support that often these days. “