When Remi Trombly started working in retail, he was hooked.
“I got the retail bug,” Trombly said of his eight years working at Orillia’s Canadian Tire, “but I also really enjoyed the outdoors — hunting, fishing, camping.”
It seems natural, then, he would go into business to combine his passions for the outdoors and customer service.
He opened Trombly’s Tackle Box 30 years ago.
In 1988, he had 1,000 square feet of space in a building at Barrie Road and West Street. Over the six years Trombly’s was at that location, it expanded to 2,800 square feet.
That still wasn’t enough. For the past 24 years, Trombly’s has occupied about 6,000 square feet at the corner of Highway 12 and West Street, the colourful displays catching the attention of motorists on the busy road.
Trombly opened at that site a couple of months before it was announced Casino Rama would be built.
“I got in just under the wire,” he said, noting the increased traffic since the casino opened has helped his business.
But it takes more than traffic and flashy displays to survive in retail these days, and Trombly knows it. Thirty years ago, his focus was almost entirely on reeling in anglers. Now, Trombly’s is “bursting at the seams” with everything from rods and lures to rifles, crossbows and camping gear.
“I had 10 life jackets at my first store. Now I have 300,” he said.
The growth and the increasing demand for all things outdoors didn’t intimidate Trombly; it excited him.
“I was ready to grow with it,” he said. “We went where the customers went. They’re the important ones. Without them, we don’t have a job.”
The rise of online shopping has been nipping at the heels of local, independent stores, and Trombly’s is no different.
“We’re not there. We need to be there,” Trombly said. “It’s a market change — not a trend, but a complete market change.”
While creating an online shopping presence is Trombly’s next priority, he doesn’t feel his business has suffered much without it.
“I don’t know if it’s hurt us as much as it hasn’t helped us,” he said, attributing the store’s success to its variety of goods and its knowledgeable staff. “There’s nowhere else in Orillia where you can walk in and see this selection.”
While some of the chain stores have their own brands, Trombly’s does not. “We carry a lot of brands,” Trombly said.
Experience is also key, and Trombly has a good record when it comes to staff retention. There are 19 people on staff, including Trombly. Some have been there a few weeks, some for five years, some for 20. His handyman has been on the job for 29 years.
“We have experience,” Trombly said. “When you shop online, you don’t get that help.”
However, in the world of sporting goods, the weather can dictate sales levels, and Trombly looks forward to eventually being able to offer shoppers an option to buy without leaving home.
One event that does boost business at Trombly’s every year, regardless of the elements, is the Orillia Perch Festival. This year’s event begins Saturday.
“It starts the season a month earlier than normal,” Trombly said. “It brings thousands of anglers to the area and it stimulates the economy.”
During the festival, Trombly opens his bait shop at 7 a.m., earlier than usual.
“If Mother Nature co-operates, it knocks it right into gear,” he said, adding even if Mother Nature is in a mood, as it appears to be this year, hard-core anglers show up.
Trombly’s celebrated its 30th year earlier this month, during its annual Fishing and Outdoor Show. While that event lasted three days, the celebratory sales are being offered until the end of April.