Attention fishermen, hunters, and campers: “The Fin” is headed to metro Toledo.
Fin Feather Fur Outfitters Inc., a burgeoning northwest Ohio sporting goods chain with a reputation for high-level customer service, will open a new store on U.S. 20 in Rossford early next month.
The retailer, which calls itself The Fin for short, plans to hire about 40 full and part-time employees and is in the process of remodeling a former MC Sporting Goods store at 27171 Crossroads Pkwy.
Rossford is the company’s sixth location, and it is the retailer’s fifth new store since 2011.
Rees Vail, company vice president, said The Fin plans to add at least two to four more stores in Ohio and maybe other locations in the Great Lakes region.
For now, however, the company’s full attention is focused on getting the 20,932-square-foot Rossford store ready for its August opening. The company has been hiring workers for the store since early June.
“There’s a good population in the area. We feel like there’s a need for a good independent outdoor retailer in the area,” Mr. Vail said of the company’s decision to crack the metro Toledo retail market.
“We just thought we could bring our good service to the community up here. I think it’s a good hunting community from what I’m finding, and there’s just a ton of fishing,” he added. “A lot of fishermen think we’ll fit right in.”
Headquartered in Ashland, Ohio, about 100 miles southeast of Toledo, Fin Feather Fur began in 1985 as a small mom-and-pop bait shop founded by Ashland area resident Mike Goschinski. In 2011 the retailer opened its second location in Middleburg Heights near Cleveland, then it expanded to Canton, Boardman, Milan, and now Rossford.
“We call ourselves The Fin family actually,” Mr. Vail said. “We have a good company culture. People come to work for us because they have passion for the outdoors, for hunting, fishing, and Second Amendment rights. That resonates with our customers.”
Alex Boian, vice president of government affairs for the Boulder, Colo.-based Outdoor Industry Association, the retail trade group representing outdoor manufacturers and retailers, said it is good that outdoor retailers like Fin Feather Fur are expanding rapidly, but not all that surprising.
“That’s really exciting to see a small chain growing and opening a fifth store in seven years. It really does speak to the popularity and enjoyment that people are seeking with the outdoors,” he said.
Mr. Boian said the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis released findings in February that showed that the outdoor industry is growing at more than 2 percent annually. “That’s indicative of a healthy outdoor industry economy,” he said.
The association’s own analysis showed that in the Ohio 9th Congressional District, which includes Toledo, $1.09 billion is spent annually on outdoor recreation. In Ohio, $24.3 billion is spent annually, with out-of-state visitors spending $4.27 billion on outdoor recreation.
Fin Feather Fur prides itself on its customer relations — “We address every email and customer complaint,” Mr. Vail said.
The retailer’s customer service got a boost last year when Mr. Goschinski sold Fin Feather Fur to his 300 workers, who then set up an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
The plan sold 100 percent of the company, via stock shares, to the employees as part of their retirement benefits.
“You can diversify so all your eggs are not in one basket,” Mr. Vail said. But being employee-owned gives workers that extra incentive to treat customers extra special.
“You can make a decision to make a customer a little happier, or go out of your way a little bit, because in the end it’s a benefit for yourself,” Mr. Vail said.
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