In 1956, George W. Sprague opened Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Arizona — a 1,600-square-foot firearms retail and repair shop. It’s been at the same location and in the Sprague family ever since, although a great deal has still changed with the business.
Son Richard D. Sprague bought the business from his father in 1984. Since then, Sprague’s has gone through a number of renovations and additions, morphing into a 23,000-square-foot operation that includes a 10-lane, 25-yard indoor shooting range, plus extensive retail and training space.
“It’s not simply a matter of ‘Build it and they will come,’ ” explains Sprague. “You have to make sure your shooting center fits the community, the competition, and what your market will allow. Within those parameters, though, there’s a good deal you can do to improve your offerings.”
Firearms training, for example. Sprague’s does a lot of business offering classes for people who want to qualify for an Arizona concealed carry permit, as well as a variety of NRA certification courses and new shooter introductory events. The training, he notes, directly feeds the larger business.
“When you educate your customers and do a good job of it, they tend to be loyal to you and will be back again and again,” Sprague says.
Getting large has come with its growing pains, Sprague admits. More business means more employees and the headaches that can come with the hiring, the firing, and the training of new people. The shooting range has added its own regulatory burdens. The many shooting and community events Sprague’s is a part of today definitely add to the workload, too.
At the same time, growing the business has come with some noticeable advantages. The ability to buy in larger quantities and receive discounts because of that buying power are among the more obvious benefits.
“As we’ve gotten bigger in the community and within the industry, gotten well known for offering a lot of introductory shooting events to bring in new shooters, that has definitely put us on the radar of sales and manufacturing reps,” Sprague adds. “I know we weren’t getting much attention for those people in the past.”
Sprague continues, “Really, those sales and manufacturing reps are our partners in business. The better the relationship we have with them, the more informed we can be and the more connected we are to what the factories are planning. Knowing some of what the future holds helps a good deal. Those industry relationships matter a lot.”