Phil Perry of Auburn checks out shotguns at Shooters Outpost in Hooksett on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
HOOKSETT - The owners of Manchester Firing Line Range have expanded their sales department by opening a 10,000-square foot firearms store stocked with guns, ammunition and apparel.
Jim and Carey McLoud have been busy preparing the space for the Shooters Outpost, which opened Monday in the large log cabin building on Hooksett Road.
"By the time we opened the door there must have been 200 people waiting to come in," Carey McLoud said. "It far exceeded our wildest expectations."
The McLouds bought the building last fall while they were in negotiations to take over Riley's Gun Shop, a Hooksett staple 3 1/2 miles away that has been in business for 50 years. The McLouds said they planned to lease Riley's current location for a few years before moving to the log cabin building, which is less than a mile from Interstate 93.
"I always wanted to own an old-fashioned gun store and that's not what Manchester Firing Line Range is," Jim McLoud said. "This is my dream gun shop."
The deal with Riley's owner Ralph Demicco ended up falling through, and now Hooksett has two gun stores.
"He's endured a lot of competition over the years since he bought Riley's," Jim McLoud said. "He's one of the first to say 'business is business.'"
Demicco did not return messages seeking comment.
The McLouds' long-term plans became much more immediate when a tenant operating in their new building wasn't paying the rent.
"We had planned on leaving him in here for a couple of years because we weren't ready to do this," Carey McLoud said. "He then didn't want to pay his rent so we had to evict him and had to do this all a little bit faster than we anticipated."
The McLouds spent last winter going to trade shows, ordering the products that would stock the shelves and custom-made secure display cases to fill the two-story structure, which was built specifically for a gun store in 1987.
That business and a few others came and went over the next 24 years before the McLouds took over the property, which had a ready-made "outdoors" feeling complete with a large stone fireplace and hearth with half of a stuffed bison, complete with its front legs, mounted above.
The McLouds have also been busy shopping for other items to decorate the store, including antique wagons and toy cars as well as a pair of newspaper front pages from 1934, featuring the shooting deaths of gangsters John Dillinger and Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd.
There is also a custom-made chandelier made of elk antlers hanging above the entrance, which is secured by a roll-up steel door at closing time to protect the wide range of merchandise, which includes firearms, ammunition and reloading equipment.
The McLouds have an established reputation in the firearms business since they purchased the firing range on Brown Ave. in 1999 and many customers were counting the days until the new store opened.
That was reassuring to the couple, who have invested so much time and money into opening a new business when the economy is still shaky.
"As we've been prepping the store, I couldn't tell you how many people have come to the door," Carey McLoud said last week. "I guess any time you open a business it's always going to be a concern whether you're successful or not. I think that we've cornered a market that's not here. We haven't even opened yet and we've got over 1,500 fans on Facebook."
They are also confident in the Hooksett location.
Outdoor retail giant Cabella's was in negotiations to build a new store near I-93's Exit 11, but the deal fell through in 2008.
"We knew that they had done the research to see that that type of business was supported here," Carey said.