Drive through the Low Country when the sun rests near the horizon and its rivers will paint you an amber trail to the sky. In every direction, fishable waters abound. It’s in this angler’s heaven that you’ll find one of the most successful independent tackle shops in the nation: The Charleston Angler.
Charleston is the Low Country’s Mecca, and a large part of its citizens head to the temple of the water throughout the week. Freshwater, saltwater, brackish water—Charleston has it all. Supplying the congregation with tips, tools and tackle are three Charleston Angler locations, backed not only by a knowledgeable staff, but a fresh, modern website that pulls a little sales weight of its own.
If you’re looking for an independent tackle store that “gets it,” this is the place. Three locations, a custom embroidery shop, locally-sourced products and a customer supported GoPro Film Festival give the operation an authentic feel and following that big box stores have a hard time replicating.
Here’s a look inside:
Shane Clevenger is an angler at heart. He’s also one of the people behind the scenes at The Charleston Angler that handles marketing, graphics and video production—not typical job responsibilities at many of the thousands of small, independent tackle shops that dot the United States from coast to coast. But Clevenger’s work, combined with the rest of his South Carolina-based team, is a catalyst for the store’s growth.
It’s an example of how local stores can compete and conquer the corporate goliaths down the street.
While many independent shops are still left scratching their heads at technology, The Charleston Angler has embraced and leveraged the power of video and marketing into growth. In the process, they’ve started tapping into a younger generation of anglers who see fishing less as a weekend hobby and more as an adventure, complete with action cameras, Lil’ Jon and smartphones.
That edge, that success, has brought the company coast to coast sales far beyond the marshes and bays of the Low Country. Did you watch the video? If you didn’t, take a second to check it out.
Yeah. You’re right. It is cool. It’s also the reason people from as far away as Alaska are visiting this store’s website to order apparel with their logo on it. (Pro tip: a landing page for your logo apparel is another excellent idea.)
From the video to an approachable staff and an iconic logo, The Charleston Angler bleeds cool.
When is the last time you visited a local tackle shop that did that? Sure, plenty of places bleed live bait, but do they bleed cool? What’s cool about your store?
Probably something, right? Heck, as long as you aren’t pointing guns at people, you’re doing something right.
“It’s all about brand recognition,” says Clevenger. Building a brand helps you build a customer base, and a customer base builds your business. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re in a position to influence an independent tackle store in your part of the country. And if you’re working at an independent tackle store, that means there’s some serious local fishing knowledge behind your counter—if not, you’d be out of business. But if your only brand recognition comes from an outdated sign over the door, it’s time to take another look at how you’re marketing.
Start with a logo. Start with a smartphone shooting how-to videos. Upload them to Facebook. Even if you don’t have a graphics department or a pro-quality video editor, start somewhere.
At most tackle stores, the number one selling product is usually a hot new lure or an old standby (like live bait) that never goes out of style. For The Charleston Angler, that number one seller is something that’s frequently an afterthought: store-branded apparel.
“What’s your number one selling product right now?” I quiz Clevenger. Squeezed between a GoPro display and a selection of premium fly rods—the store caters to both fly and conventional anglers— he hesitates before firing back.
“Online or in-store?”
“It’s definitely our logo gear.”
In a few months, Clevenger won’t be standing beside a small, in-store GoPro display. He’ll be standing in one of Charleston’s historic theaters. A few blocks away, the newest location of The Charleston Angler will sleep, waiting for a new tide of anglers to pass through its doors. Inside, fishermen from all parts of the Low Country will fill the theater with excitement, memory cards and beer at the store’s 5th annual film festival. GoPro will still be there, this time on the big screen; from humble beginnings, customer’s dreams will play like Hollywood cinema.
Fishing trips that began on the isles of the Angler will end in the aisles of a movie theatre.
“People around here mostly fish for redfish, spotted sea trout and flounder,” nods Clevenger. “On good days you can get out and catch that slam all in one outing.”
And on good nights, you can watch the slam yourself thanks to a local tackle store that “gets it.”