I do not maintain a "loyalty" to one shop or the other.
There are 4 shops within a short drive from my house.
Most shops seem to have a combination of good points and shortcomings.
Some have shortcomings in the staff hired to work the shop and some are deficient in inadequate supplies.
One of the shops just seems to have everything. I won't give any names because I am not offering ads for a shop nor do I think it nice to "slam" a shop by name.
But I am curious if everyone else has the same feelings when they walk into a shop, such as:
(a) This place could improve if only they______________?
(b) Why doesn't this shop have the ______________that I want in stock?
(c) Dosen't this guy (or gal) know how to smile?
I like to spread my business around.
This week, I was going to buy a streamside "plier" tool, you know, hook removal, crimper etc, that I knew sold in one shop for $44.95
I found the tool in another shop, longer, better, for $26.95
One shop I know, actually seems to have everything. It is owned by a guy who is famous for publishing a book etc.
The staff is usually cheery, and there isn't so much as a feather or a chenille or a Krystal Flash that they don't have.
They also tie their own Grasshoppers, Stimulators and all of there stuff is clean, neat, highly organized.
I like it a lot.
I don't know if people in a shop know it or not, but there are different ways of saying "Hello, can I help you?"
Do you know what I mean? One is sincere and the other a bit of question not quite so sincere.
Do you really like the nearest shop to you? Do you have one or more places to shop in?
I think there is a connection between the customer service and the product in stock, and visa versa. Successful shop owners know they need both. This seems very true here in Denver where there are tons of shops to choose from, but with the rise of the internet, it is true even in areas with only one shop.
Knew a shop back in Michigan that had poor customer service and they also rarely had any tying stuff in stock and were often low on basics like tippet etc. If you weren't coming in to look at expensive waders, rods, reels, etc they weren't very interested in you. I came to learn that they were struggling financially and couldn't afford to stock much product. Personally I rarely went there, even to buy what they had because of the poor customer service and I know I wasn't alone and that was before they thinned their inventory.
I'm generally happy browsing without interruption and don't need much from the staff, but when they act like you're not worth their time unless you're spending hundreds and offers no useful info about local fishing, I start wondering why I'm wasting gas money to get there. These days I'm grateful to have a number of great shops close to home. I find I usually learn something, find something I want, and have a good experience.
I have two local shops to choose plus one destination shop that's about 2 hours away.
One of the local shops has excellent staff, a good selection of products and materials and will order anything/everything you're interested in. These guys get a good bit of my business because they're extremely helpful and go the extra mile. It is also the closest. Sometimes I go there with the intention of buying something that I'd expect would be in stock and come home without it. Depending on how quickly I need it, I'll order it online or I'll order it through them. Unless I'm buying pre loved gear, I try to make major purchases there unless they don't carry something I'm looking for.
The other shop is kind of old school. The staff consists of the owner. Always decent enough to me, but not quite as inviting as the other shop. The selection of products is decent but old school and could use a good update. They have a good selection of tying materials and that's generally my purchase there. Funny thing is, I was speaking with someone the other day that I'd never spoken to and when discussing this shop, the comments were much the same.
The destination shop has a super selection of everything. Top brands, good price ranges of products great staff and I'll pick up what I need while there.
What I appreciate about all three is that I've never felt as though they were trying to put me into the most expensive piece of equipment just to make a big sale. They're informative and will often recommend less expensive alternatives if that particular model is worthy of the recommendation. Of course I typically do my homework before making a major purchase and my research seems to be consistent with their messages quite often.
Some things are best purchased in person. Others not so much. To that end, there are a few online shops that get my money too because of great prices and experiences.
The thought I tend to have most consistently is "Too bad I can't afford any of this."
Since the nearest shop is an hour's drive away at a Cabelas, I'm just glad to be in a flyshop with another person who takes flyfishing seriously. Any flyshop is great for me, as long as the people there are courteous and don't mind me just browsing (The Cabelas in Kansas City is great on both counts.)
Thinking that the day of reckoning would come since my business was manufacturing based I stocked up when the time was right. For me the day of reckoning did come and I somehow manage to make-do with what I have for the most part. Sadly, the day of reckoning also came to many fly shops. Could this all be interrelated?
When I was the consumate consumer I had a standard that made customer service and friendliness of paramount importance with price and inventory right behind them.
I to this day avoid a shop where one of the help is condescending and snooty. Another whose help asks everyone who comes in what kind of rods they have and if the answer isn't that one particular brand tells them, 'Those suck!". Where are the owners of these shops and are they ignoring customer complaints?
As for the owners, to this day I have a nearby shop who still doesn't understand the internet and how people can check prices. Maybe he thinks the dog he has around to pet is worth a 5-10% premium on everything he sells.
I used to hang around my favorite fly shops and saw many types of customers come through the door. The most interesting were the worm slingers who came in probably out of curiosity but also with the biggest chip on their shoulder known to man. If the help allowed them to browse a bit they claimed they were ignored by the uppity help and if they were attended to right away the help was pushy and made the customer feel uncomfortable.
It's a fine line good help walks to keep customers happy.
I did my best to prevent the takeover of the big box stores. Slowly, surely and sdaly except in special areas or with something very special to offer the Mom and Pops shops are going away along with the personalities each shop had and the personalized attention they gave.
What I know for sure is that my grandson is going to make out nicely when I kick the bucket... IF he stays on the straight and narrow!
When I was quite green I ventured into a then famous fly shop. I was looking for some tippet material. The owner, who had a well known following among the rich and famous, was perched on his stool among disheveled mountains of fly fishing paraphernalia. "What do you want kid? Well, Mr. Deren, I would like you opinion on the best tippet material for dry fly fishing." "You'll find all that stuff over on that table there", he pointed. "This crinkly yellow stuff coiled in this glassene bag, Sir? "That's the best in the World and comes from France, it's what Arnold (Gingrich) always uses. Any way, I'm closing now to head up to the Ausable." "What flies will you be using there, Mr. Deren?" "How the hell will I know till I get there! Now do you want that stuff or not?" I over paid for the useless tippet and walked toward Grand Central Station near this upper floor in a sky scraper fly shop.
I've been in many fly shops, like that one, long gone now and more that still exist, mostly in destinations where they prosper on their outfitting. Sometimes younger anglers call me "sir" now. But that visit with the great Jim Deren at the Anglers Roost is among my most memorable and, on rare occasion, I sometimes will respond to speculation on hatches; "How will I know till I get there?"
---------- Post added at 12:42 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:12 PM ----------
Back in the days when they used to sell rods with names like, "All Rounder" and "Far and Fine"; the fly shop at Orvis's home in Manchester, VT had a gentleman named Dan working there. He must have worked there for some years as he had quite a following. Men would come into the shop and be approached by young salesmen and would say, "Excuse me please, I am waiting for Dan to be available." Dan was a tall, lanky man with a laconic New England way of speaking and he would outfit these customers from socks to tip-top with Orvis's finest equipment for wherever their intended exotic destination might be. I recall visiting this shop when an angler asked Dan, on a bitter Winter day, when the Hendricksons might be expected to emerge on the Battenkill? Dan turned his pale blue eyes toward the shop's ceiling and looked right through it as if seeking wisdom beyond and responded; "When the buds on the Red Oaks unfurl to the size of a grey squirrel's ear, the Hendricksons will be on the water." That is one of the most sagacious responses I've ever heard in a fly shop.
Jimmy's All Season Angler in Idaho Falls, ID - I feel like Norm from Cheers every time I walk through the door. Friendly, knowledgeable and bend over backwards in the name of customer service. Jimmy and dad Jim know how it should work and they surrounds themselves with others of a like mind. Never disappointed.
There are a few others to mention that are top notch - Jacklin's Fly Shop in West Yellowstone, MT.; Dan Shepard's Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula, MT; and Portneuf Outfitters in Pocatello, ID.
I love these shops and my angling experience would not be the same without them.
I am bummed the shop that I have frequented for the past 4 years is going out of business the end of this month, and the other shop in town I don't care to go in they are a little to argent for my taste.