Mike Stickler was here before the river stopped running, or at least before it stopped running unhindered. “It was the Colorado River,” he reminisces. “It was murky water, a fast flowing river. Now, this place is getting to be a hub area for tourism.”
It’s a hub in part because of the dam, because of the 700 feet of towering concrete blocking the Colorado’s flow through Glen Canyon. It’s a hub in part because of the water trapped behind the dam, the water that forms Lake Powell. And it’s a hub, mostly, because Stickler’s home of Page, Ariz., is an oasis at the epicenter of five national parks. Hiking, biking, archeology, paleontology, geology and fishing encircle this desert town of 7,000.
You won’t find another place like it—and you won’t find many tackle shops like Stickler’s namesake, Stix Liquor and Sporting Goods.
Liquor and hunting supplies keep the river of revenue flowing towards Stix year-round, but the store has still carved a niche as the premier tackle shop in the region. That’s partly due to an unmatched supply of Gary Yamamoto baits (Yamamoto made his home in Page for decades), and mostly due to Stickler and company’s dedication to their customers.
Mike is the kind of guy who knows your name and what you’re doing before you walk into his store.
“Nice to meet you, Joe,” he quips before I can even mutter a word. “I hear you’re heading out with Jarrett.”
Stickler is right. He knows I’m venturing on to Powell with local legend and Stix regular Jarrett Edwards. He probably knows exactly what we’ll be fishing for, what we’re going to catch and which local craft beer I’m about to buy. But I don’t yet know his name.
It doesn’t matter.
Whether or not Stickler got the gift from the nearby Navajo or not is up for debate, but the man has an uncanny ability to remember names. “That’s the key to a small business, to keep yourself alive,” he’ll tell you. “To know your customer and to keep them coming back.” Stickler has been in Page since 1958, and he’s fostered countless anglers from toddlers to parents inside these tackle shop walls.
It’s an old-school tackle shop lesson that new owners would do well to remember. Even in a world of constant changes, there is incredible power in knowing someone’s name, in truly caring about your customers. Without that passion, there is no making it in the tackle business.
Tackle shops can be intimidating places, and knowing someone’s name goes a long way towards helping them feel like they belong.
“Even little tikes and little kids, we treat those kids like we’re their grandparents,” Stickler says. “Because that little guy is our future customer. They remember us. I’ve got guys who are 30-something years old who can remember coming in here and getting a free sucker when their dad bought them fishing tackle.”
It’s that kind of attitude that keeps customers coming back to Stix, back to the tackle shop perched atop a hill over the dam. It’s an attitude that’s necessary for the shop to be there—after all, Page is a hub. There are plenty of things to do besides fishing. But the friendly folks at Stix keep anglers coming back year after year, harkening to some parting words from Stickler.
“If you come to Page,” he says, “I can guarantee you’ll come back again.”
The same could be said about his store.