Fishing tops firearms at new store
Bridgeview Sports Sales to expand, offer two ranges
By Steve Metsch
“What we’re looking to do is real expand the fishing. Right now, we have about 200 square feet for fishing (merchandise). I want to get that up to about 1,500 square feet. Originally, the guns were going to be about 1,800 square feet. It’s obviously going down to about 800 square feet,” Van, 67, said recently at his business.
He plans to expand the building, too.
Signs on the building, which formerly was a carwash, put a heavy emphasis on the fishing gear that’s sold there, along with plenty of live bait.
“There’s a need in this area for it. We’re getting 30 to 40 people a day in here,” he said of fishermen looking for live bait like the night crawler worms that are for sale along with six different types of minnows swimming in tanks.
“I’ve been told they only have to replace six or seven a year,” Van said with a smile.
As if on cue, a customer who bought a rod last week stopped in. He said he liked the first rod so much, he decided to buy a second.
“We’re really pushing the fishing. Nothing fancy. We’re not a Bass Pro Shop. We don’t intend to be. We’re what’s called ‘basic tackle,’ the more common stuff everybody needs. Once we get the addition in the back, we’ll be able to really expand the fishing,” Van said.
“It’s a good business that the neighborhood needs. You’ve got a town here with a fantastic reputation, a building department that’s easy to get along with and you’ve got a mayor who’s doing everything possible to bring business into his town,” Van said.
Mayor Steve Landek said the village was happy to have the new business on busy Harlem Avenue.
“I knew the car wash was going out. No one has ever asked us to open a gun range. It sounds interesting. The bait shop was a surprise,” Landek said.
Right now, visitors will be greeted to what could be termed a work in progress. That’s because Van is in the midst of remodeling and expanding the building in order to accommodate two gun ranges – one for handguns, the other for louder firearms.
He’s not skimping on safety measures. While some ranges may use cinderblock that’s filled, he’s poured solid concrete walls with steel walls and ceilings, all designed to put the utmost attention on safety, along with preventing noise from bothering neighbors.
He’s even made sure that concrete and steel replace wood frames commonly found around doors. Taking chances is not his style.
“We went to the expense of steel plating the old exterior wall, so there’s absolutely no chance a bullet, a round of ammunition, will leave this range. Having two ranges, we’re able to separate a (gun) class or we can use one range for Ladies’ Night,” Van said.
The gun ranges will be available for instructors, Van said. Classrooms can be rented out, too. “We do a lot of training at our other store in Burr Ridge,” he said. “We’re keeping that one open, too.”
Van has several layers of security in the store “so there’s no chance of firearms being stolen.”
He, son Norm, and store clerk Mike Rendon won’t sell firearms “to gangbangers or to anyone who smells of booze or marijuana,” Van said.
Being on Harlem Avenue, he expects plenty of business. “We’ve got 40,000 cars a day that go past here,” he noted.
When the additions are completed, Van said he expects to have a work force of 11 to 18 employees.
— Desplaines Valley News