It has been one year since our grand opening and nothing has gone quite as planned. We were officially open for about 6 weeks before Covid hit and government officials decided we needed two weeks of shutdown to flatten the curve -- two weeks that turned into a month, then two, and so on. My well-orchestrated plans flew out the window.
Over all, this has been a huge boost to the gun industry with nearly 40 million background checks in 2020. The actual number of sales is likely much larger due to the fact that one check can cover multiple guns. This was a great time for many stores and lines were around the block at larger places.
First-time buyers accounted for many of the sales, and I can attest to the fact that many people who never thought they would want a gun ended up purchasing. The stories customers told me varied greatly, from being afraid of people getting desperate during a lockdown to a plague that would end civilization, and later because of the unrest that came with the social justice protests that devolved into looting and vandalism far too often.
This should have made a banner year for a newly opened gun store, but it seems we were a little too new. As production was stretched thin, materials were hard to procure, and the little guys like me were left behind. We do not have the connections and resources that the larger, more established stores have. The same suppliers that would send other stores ammo and firearms would tell me there was nothing in stock. I know people who are receiving at larger San Antonio stores, and they told me where the items were coming from. It is very disheartening to ask over and over for products that you know are being allotted to competitors and huge corporate stores.
Other companies I had distributor deals with ceased their wholesale operations and sold everything via their end-user sites due to the overwhelming demand. Smaller companies I was working with, such as ammo manufacturers, wound up in a similar situation as me where they couldn’t get the raw materials to keep producing.
All of this happened while the tattoo side of the store was forced to close by “emergency mandate”. The tattoo artists (being self-employed artists) had to go home and figure out how they were going to survive. For three months I reduced my hours, sat at the shop alone most days and watched the bank account slowly draining. I have never wanted to rely on any government assistance, but was barraged with calls and emails about PPP, SBA loans, SA City programs, etc. I thought, the government is the one closing me down and causing this panic, so I might as well get something that is already set aside for helping businesses. To my surprise, I did not qualify for any assistance. Even though I had worked very hard on planning and preparing my business for the better part of 2019, I don’t have the proof the government wanted for any of the loan applications. I have no sales data for 2019 since I did not open until just before the pandemic, and no payroll to report for the right time period because I did not have any employees. I was out of luck.
Tattooing was ok’d to open back up after being closed for two months, but at that point the general public was cautious, and clients fell off from pre-pandemic numbers.
My primary income became transfers from online orders, which saved me from closing. Before we even opened, I set up accounts with every major online dealer and have one of the most affordable transfer rates in town, which started to pay off as the local stores ran out of product and people were forced to shop online. This is still not highly profitable at an average of $18 per transaction, but became the only income we had. Just enough for me to pay the bills and not close the doors like so many other businesses that just started up. To say it has been a rough year would be an understatement.
As we move into our second year, I’m doing my best to stay positive. Looking back on all the trials of 2020, I must remind myself that I have definitely been luckier than some -- I’ve met many great people and built a clientele that keeps coming back, and for that I am thankful. Our doors are still open. I’m hopeful that the supply shortage will end soon, and that people will start feeling more comfortable with getting tattooed. I’m hanging onto this wild idea of a small gun shop that shows care and respect to all customers, while also offering amazing tattoos. I am thankful for all of the people who have visited us during year one, who have helped keep this dream afloat so far. Here’s to a better year ahead for all of us.