Retailer Spotlight: Gary’s Tackle Box

How do you move a legendary tackle store and keep your customers? Will people still buy when you move away from the water? What if you drop live bait? We traveled to Gainesville, Florida to find out.

It barely peeks out over the road. If you drive too fast, you’ll miss Gary’s Tackle Box. And if you do, you’ll miss Gainesville’s soft-spoken authority on angling–Gary Simpson.

Gary has been teaching Gator-country fishermen how to wrestle in the area’s prolific fish for decades. “In some cases,” he says, “I’ve helped three generations of the same family catch fish. And I’m really proud of that. I think that’s cool.”

It is cool. But what’s cooler is the story of just how Gary Simpson has been able to keep teaching families after the store he taught them at shuttered in 2012.

Gary tells the story of his original home— called the Tackle Box (sans Gary’s)— in the video above. But he also offers insight into just how he and his partner Wally Grant resurrected the store under Gary’s flag and the roof of Grant’s high-end upholstery shop.

“We started with very much the same principals and precepts that we had used for decades and decades at the old shop,” said Gary. “But we did shift about a little bit and we tried to move things into the 21st century,” referencing the store’s new website and Facebook page. Along with those changes, Gary’s Tackle Box stopped selling live bait in an attempt to cater to higher-end customers.

Grant, who offered the approximately 650 square-foot space under his roof, says he knew the changes would pay off if Gary was involved.

And Gary says even after dropping live bait, the move worked. Customers from the original Tackle Box have followed him across town. They now make their way over to visit Gary after work or on their lunch breaks. Average ticket prices are strong.

But despite replacing a rolodex with a laptop, Gary’s Tackle Box has maintained close ties to its historic roots. The phone number remains the same (352-372-1791); and the original Tackle Box’s signature mounted tarpon made the journey over to Gary’s new location. They are throwbacks to the ambience of the old store.

“There’s a lot to be said for having a neat, old-fashioned tackle shop. Because there’s something about tackle that harkens to old fashioned.

We still don’t have barcodes and scanners and everything, but that actually might be coming.”

As for the customers, Gary says it best:

“If people know that you absolutely want to help them catch fish and you’re committed to that. Then you have a customer.”