Lures. Worms. Minnows. A rod and reel combo. You sell these things every day, but do you really remember what you’re selling?
It’s not just fishing tackle.
Take a quick survey: what age is your oldest customer? Now, how about the youngest?
Chances are that age bracket ranges from a youngster who can barely see over the counter to a salty old man who can barely see at all. Chances are the salty old man has been casting a line since before he could see over the counter himself. And if that’s true in your store, it means you’re selling more than fishing tackle. You’re selling memories. You’re selling a timeless game: a game of hide-and-seek, bait-and-switch, catch-or-be-caught.
There aren’t many of those games left in the world. Think about it, how many pastimes can you enjoy today that you also enjoyed as a child? How many of those activities can you still master?
True, maybe you can still throw a baseball, but can you blister around the diamond? For the most part, the things you loved as a kid stay frozen in the past as an adult. The plastic army men, LEGOS, your favorite dog—they’re all gone. But your first fishing rod? Some people still have theirs. Your favorite fishing lure? There’s probably one just like it in your tackle box.
I always keep an old Jitterbug around, just in case. It’s the same one I’ve had since the 1980s. That Jitterbug is old, wooden and has never hooked a bass over three pounds, but it’s still there—just in case.
It’s there because my father gave it to me. Because in a world of plastic this and plastic that, a wooden lure seems somehow more worthy of taking a great fish. It’s there because I can fish that lure with more skill now than I could as a kid; but mostly it’s there because of the distinctive “burble-burble” a Jitterbug makes as it wobbles across glassy water. It’s as addictive now as it was when I was tee-ball age, when a minefield of cow patties dotted the shores of a small West Tennessee pond, when I would sprint from honey hole to honey hole and inevitably slip on those cow patties, crashing into the muddy water below.
That part wasn’t fun. But the fishing part was, and fun never goes out of style.
This is a big week for children of the ’80s and ’90s. There’s a birthday celebration flooding social media for an old friend, for another icon of youth. At 30 years old, he’s still the best plumber I know even though he can’t jump like he used to. You know his name—Super Mario.
The celebration started on Snapchat yesterday, it spread to blogs and websites and Facebook and Twitter, as a generation of adults paid homage to their pixelated, childhood friend. Except, for many, Mario is not just a childhood friend; Mario grew up with millennials—the same way an old-timey Jitterbug or your favorite fishing hole grew up with you.
Mario made it to adulthood. His presence dots coffee shops selling $7 lattes and bars selling $7 buckets of beer. He escaped the tomb of other childhood favorites and made it into the caffeine and alcohol fueled world of the grown ups who grew up with him. Along the way, Mario became the centerpiece of more than a few date nights.
Boys, girls, everyone loves Mario.
If you’re on social media this week and you see an ode to a mushroom-loving plumber, take a step back; take a look at your walls. Because the tackle you sell is a lot like the little man in red. The tackle you sell is a kind of fun that never goes out of style. And there aren’t too many of those things left.