Hunting Fishing

Hunting and fishing store closing after 40 years in Orangevale

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California’s more than 6 million gun owners are going to see new restrictions in 2018 stemming from sweeping regulations lawmakers and voters have approved over the past two years.

Few businesses are as synonymous with their community as Wild Sports is to Orangevale, but after four decades of selling guns and fishing gear to northeast Sacramento County hunters and anglers, the retailer says it is closing.

“Store closing: huge sale,” screamed the yellow banner hanging outside the nondescript building this week.

Prominently situated at the intersection of Greenback Lane and Main Avenue, Wild Sports is one of the few retail stores outside of tire shops in Orangevale, a semi-rural suburban community of 34,000 people.

The store has been liquidating merchandise for weeks. Earlier this week, half a dozen patrons combed the 12,000-square-foot store, ringed with mounted animal trophies, for deals. Much of the remaining boots, gloves, scopes and outdoor gear was marked down by 30 to 40 percent. It’s not clear when the last day will come.

“No comment” was the official word from a man in the back store room, who did not come out.

Wild Sports was big box sporting retail before the category existed.

“They were kind of an institution,” said Gary Voet, a former Sacramento Bee outdoors columnist. “The only place if you wanted to get any fishing-related stuff near Folsom was Wild Sports.”

As the news broke online, Orangevale residents expressed sadness that a community fixture would be leaving.

“Wild Sports was one of the last neighborhood outdoor sporting goods stores around. I shopped there all the time, and the fishing guys there were always super helpful,” said Hank Shaw, an award-winning outdoors author who lives in Orangevale.

Why the owners, listed in legal documents as Fligge Fligge Fligge, have chosen to close their business now is left to speculation with the owner declining to discuss. New gun laws and competition from online retailers are common theories.

While California has aggressively created more regulation around guns and ammunition, trade associations say sales have remained strong.

“They are retiring,” said Dan Mincer, a property manager with Vollman Company. Mincer said the Fligge brothers who own the longtime hunting retail store also own the land, which was officially placed on the market last week. Mincer said he was eager to see what offers come in for the two buildings and two properties sitting on just under 2 acres. They did not put a price on the listing.

Wild Sports was facing increased competition both online from the likes of Amazon, but also from newer brick-and-mortar retailers who also sell guns.

“I suspect they were hit hard by the two big box stores that opened up nearby. BASS Pro and Sportsman’s Warehouse are tough to compete against,” said Shaw, whose fourth book, “Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game from Field to Feast,” is set to publish in April.

Wild Sports occupies a storied place among gun enthusiasts, but had a mixed reputation for their customer service. One online poster referred to them as “rude sports.”

Several people voiced concerns about Wild Sports’ customer service and the store’s strict no return policy on the online review site Yelp. One Yelp reviewer tells detailed stories about being rebuffed after attempting to return a defective fishing pole.

Voet, who had dozens of interaction with the Fligge brothers while writing his outdoors column, said they weren’t real big on customer service.

“I’ve never got the sense they were really, really friendly,” Voet said.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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