Independent gun shop's secret weapon against big box retailer?

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

I have nothing against big gun shops like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops, but I’ll admit to being partial to my local independent gun stores (and small retailers in general). I hate seeing small towns with vacant Main Street storefronts and full Walmart parking lots, and I try to shop local wherever I can, but I understand that big chains can often offer more bang for the buck (no pun intended) from a customer’s perspective.

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Small businesses need to do something to stand out against their larger competition, and one gun store owner in Wichita, Kansas thinks he’s found the answer: offer some cluck cluck along with the pew pew.

Brad Rogers, owner of The Bullet Stop gun store and range, knows that he’s a tiny David to the Goliath that is Scheels — a massive sporting goods store opening at Towne East Square on Saturday.

So Rogers, who bought The Bullet Stop at 2625 W. Pawnee last year, came up with a plan to set himself apart from the big guy: He’d open an adjoining restaurant and offer food so good that his customers wouldn’t be able to forget him.

“Having the best food will draw people there,” he said. “There’s just so much competition from Scheels that I knew we had to do something to stay relevant.”

So far, it seems to be working, though Rogers admits that his winner winner chicken dinners did get off to a bit of a rough start. Not because of a lack of interest, as it turns out. Quite the opposite.

Although Rogers had been thinking about starting a restaurant for years, he initially decided to open a Wichita franchise of Chuck’s Hot Chicken, which is based in O’Fallon, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. He even paid to have fliers mailed to every household in Wichita announcing the arrival of Chuck’s Hot Chicken.

But Rogers and the franchise parted ways shortly after the fliers went out. He decided to still open the restaurant but quickly changed its name and its recipes. In late May, he decided to try a soft opening, just to see if his machines worked. But some local food bloggers tried the food and raved about it online, and soon, Rogers was inundated with more customers than he could handle.

“We were not prepared,” he said. “We didn’t realize how quickly the word about good food travels through Wichita.”

Rogers then closed the restaurant to prepare for his grand re-opening, but some people who have heard the buzz and have gone by the restaurant to try it have been confused, wondering if it was closed for good.

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Nope, just re-opening under a new name: Brad’s Chicken, Bullets & BBQ. Rogers says the restaurant is pretty small, with only a handful of seats inside, so he’s hoping customers at The Bullet Stop will grab a hot chicken sandwich to go once they’re done picking up their guns and ammunition.

If I lived anywhere close to Wichita I’d definitely swing by to check them out and grab a bite, and it sounds like Rogers already has a lot of customers eager to do the same. I don’t think Rogers has any plans to expand or franchise to other gun shops, but I hope at the very least he’ll make some Brad’s Chicken, Bullets, and BBQ t-shirts available for sale on The Bullet Stop’s website so that other fans of mom and pop shops like me can do our part to support small businesses like his, even the ones that aren’t located on our own small town Main Street.

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