Spencer Bait and Tackle closes, becomes home to Mobley Auction Services [Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.]By Jessica Williams, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Dec. 09--SPENCER -- Spencer Bait and Tackle closed its doors Dec. 8 and the former owner hopes his experience teaches local consumers a lesson or two.
Matt Arnold took over the shop from his father, Gene Arnold, about two years ago.
His father opened the store in July 1, 1985, in a 300-square-foot building. Twelve years ago, the business expanded to the property at 2310 Ind. 46, just outside Spencer and near McCormick's Creek State Park.
"When I took it over, Dad said, 'Matt, it's going to be rough. It's going to be really rough to make it in this economy and the Internet because the Internet just keeps growing stronger and stronger, day by day,'" Arnold recalled.
He argues that big corporation stores such as Walmart and the convenience of the Internet will be the downfall of small businesses.
"People need to open their eyes and see that small business has to stay alive or this is what happens," Arnold said.
Spencer Bait and Tackle provided a variety of in-house services, from letting customers try out various bows and firearms to providing gun transfers, which is the required paperwork between seller and buyer when a gun switches ownership.
Arnold was charging a $20 fee for a gun transfer, which is cheap in his book.
"If I were to stay open, it would jump to $50 a transfer," he explained.
Since taking over for his father, Arnold tried to update the store's look and came up with fresh ideas.
"And that still didn't help," he said.
He also looked at adding a small food service area, enough to hold 10 to 15 seats, to the bait shop. But then he discovered there were many health codes he needed to meet and many required permits he needed to have before he could open the area.
"I was probably looking at $50,000 just to get it started," he said.
The idea of adding an ice cream shop was also thrown out; it was just too expensive.
Then the Indiana Department of Natural Resources began providing deer check-in services on the Web, which didn't help Spencer Bait and Tackle, either.
As a DNR check-in station, the shop saw a decline in customers after the change to the web-based service.
"When they're not here, they don't buy," Arnold said of the hunters who frequented his store.
As of Friday, Nov. 30, the shop had 329 check-ins for the year. Last year, the store had 336 check-ins during opening firearm weekend alone, with a total of 765 during the entire season.
"We're nowhere near it," said Eric Shaw, who has been with the shop for 15 years.
Overall, Arnold has enjoyed having his own business, especially the people.
"The only one to get mad at is yourself, because you didn't order enough of something or you didn't find it until afterward that it's on a special price," he said of being self-employed. "That's happened."
Arnold said he liked making personal connections with customers, which he doesn't think people can find in bigger stores.
"Small businesses are what people need. Once it's gone, they don't realize it," he said. "Because where are they going to go to get the right answers? Where are they going to go to get a problem solved (or) a problem fixed?
"The Internet? No," Arnold added.
Arnold is optimistic about his future, and Shaw isn't too concerned, either.
"Owen County won't let you starve, (there are) too many good people around," Shaw said.
Some locally owned business owners have expressed interest in the remaining retail items and another $400 in items will be donated to Owen Valley High School, from hats and gloves to baseball uniforms.
"They don't know yet but they're getting it," Arnold said.
The original plan was to close at the end of the year but most of the store's items were auctioned off in early November, causing Arnold to reconsider the closing date.
"We want to thank all of our customers for supporting us for 27-and-a-half years," Arnold said. "And we do apologize for the closing but the times have changed."
The hope is that many more auctions will take place at the property in the future, as Mobley Auction Services has opened up in the store, converting the old tackle shop into an auction house. Arnold is a partner in that endeavor.
"We fill the seats in here," he said.
The property even has room to expand in the future if needed. Currently, consignment auctions begin at 6 p.m. Saturdays.
So far, the auctions are going well.
"We have two other things that we're going to try for auctions but we don't want to let them cats out of the bag yet," Arnold said.
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