PHOENIXVILLE - Firearms, hunting, archery, ammo, accessories, footwear apparel, camping and fishing. All of those areas are handled with equipment in stock for all outdoor activities in the field.
French Creek Outfitters, a store located at 270 Schuylkill Rd., has served the area for the past 20 years. Owner Mike Friedland and his wife, Kerry, along with a large crew of assistant workers, are currently involved in operating a two-week sale marking the milestone in their business. It started Aug. 12 and runs through Aug. 25.
On Aug. 13, French Creek hosted a four-hour autograph session featuring the Brotherhood of the Bone Collector Bus Tour members with Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner and Nick Mundt. They are television personalities on a cable television outdoor show.
Outdoors enthusiasts lined up for autographs from 3-7 p.m. at the site.
The Friedlands, archery manager Scott Roadarnel and numerous other workers took part in a variety of ways during the celebration by the privately owned business. Friedland said the owners, workers and custormers are like one big family of relatives and friends.
The store had a shop in South Coventry from 1977 to 1993 before expanding its headquarters with the move to Phoenixville. The store area grew from 15,000 square feet to 32,000 square feet. Along with that growth came a distinctive 25-yard indoor pistol range with instruction for youths.
Two years ago, Friedland had Fred Eichler make an appearance and seminar. This time it was just an outograph session.
“It has been very well-attended,” said Friedland.
French Creek is located at the site of a former supermarket that closed. So was the older one further west..
“We have a lot of really good people working for us,” said Friedland. “It is a hands-on type of thing. We are big enough now. We don’t want to lose control.”
Friedland has always lived along French Creek. Now he doubles on it at the business and at home.
“It is important to have a good location,” said Friedland. “But if you have a good store with good service, people will find you. We have a loyal following. It all worked out.”
Roadarnel is one of the many faithful employees.
“We have every program that deals with outdoors,” said Roadarnel. “We pretty much have everything that people are looking for. I have just been here for a few years.”
Friedland takes pride in knowing the names of all of his regular customers.
There has always attracted a base group with an interest in hunting and fishing. But so many aspects of outdoors sports have developed as an offshoot of that in the business. Archery is at the forefront along with the use of firearms as protection and for recreational shooting. Television shows and moves with an accent on the outdoors have helped drive businesses such as French Creek beyond the regular hunting and fishing equipment needed.
National Rifle Association (NRA) classes have certified instructors with an emphasis on safety, proper training and technique right from the start at a young age. There had been a five to six month waiting period for aspiring students to join classes, but that has been eliminated since more instructors have been added. There is classroom instruction as well as the range for fun and target shooting.
Fishing and kayaking demands depend a lot on the weather conditions. Fishing is broken down into fresh water, salt water and fly fishing. During the winter, there are fly tying classes that have become quite popular because they are different and also considered a lot of fun, too.
A kayak tournament was held at Marsh Creek this year. Due to its success, hopes are to have it again next year.
Paddling with boats that go out on fishing trips is also good exercise for fitness proponents. The ability to meet people with outdoors interests in common also helps to establish some long-standing friendships.
During his early years, Friedland spent time in the food business as a broker since his family had supermarkets. He also cleaned fish for three years, which helped spawn his interest in fishing. Eventually, he ran the seafood department.
When he was in his late 20s and early 30s, Friedland spent time working in retail and learning how to deal with the general public.
The Friedlands have seen their business become a large format and have been able to keep it going with a lot of hard work and dedication. That, he said, is the rewarding aspect of the job.