Author: Cassie Scott
It’s Thanksgiving. You’re filled to the brim with turkey, stuffing and your aunt’s homemade pumpkin pie. After your loved ones leave, you kick up your feet and try to wind down for the evening, but your brain’s still racing and quickly takes you back to work.
As an ATA member in the midst of the year’s busiest shopping days, you think, “Will customers visit my store?” Or perhaps, “Will my products fly off the shelves?”
Take off your business cap for a second and read Riley Gardner’s story. It might inspire you to stop worrying, and to keep working hard to make a difference.
Gardner was introduced to hunting at a young age and enjoys creating different recipes with his game. Photo Credit: Riley Gardner
Gardner, 23, was introduced to bowhunting at age 10 by his father. He remembers accompanying his dad to the stand and watching him hunt. A few years later, he grabbed the bowhunting torch and ran with it. He hasn’t stopped running.
“I love bowhunting because you must get up close and personal with deer, and there are less people in the woods pressuring the deer compared to gun-hunting,” Gardner said. “Bowhunting allows me to learn a lot about deer behaviors and movements to help me become a better hunter. It provides a sustainable lifestyle, allowing me to get outdoors, exercise and enjoy the environment. Plus, I can potentially go home with fresh organic meat.”
Gardner is smitten with bowhunting, but he gun-hunts, too. He hunts every chance he gets, and loves eating wild game he arrows or shoots. His favorite recipes include pheasant pot pie, and venison chili, enchiladas and meatballs.
He graduated in May 2017 from Daemen College in Amherst, New York, with a bachelor’s degree in biology, specializing in environmental studies. A year later, he took a job with the department of public works in Tonawanda.
After a few paychecks enabled him to buy a bow, Gardner visited Ravlin Hill Archery in Panama, New York, a shop his friends recommended. That meant driving two hours to the pro shop to sight in and get ready to bowhunt. He said the trip was worthwhile and his friends’ recommendations were on-point. He was especially impressed with how Ravlin Hill Archery connects with young people.
Gardner discusses the merits of marketing to younger generations. Photo Credit: Riley Gardner
“[Marketing to younger generations] increases future business, because a lot of young people get their friends involved in archery,” Gardner said. “When they do, they’ll bring their friends to the retailer, too. That’s how I ended going to Ravlin Hill.”
Millennials represent about 25 percent of the country’s population and roughly $200 billion of its annual buying power, according to Forbes. Plus, they heavily influence buying decisions by other age groups, such kids and older family members.
Daniel Burkholder, owner of Ravlin Hill Archery, said his business is ever-growing and over the years young hunters have been a smaller part of his customer base, which is why Gardner’s story inspires him.
“We’re extremely thankful for Riley’s dedication and his friends’ recommendations,” Burkholder said. “That’s what we look for as a dealer. It’s rewarding to have a customer like Riley come in, get his bow set up, and take part in the whole process of bowhunting.”
Burkholder considers Gardner a success story. An even bigger success is seeing him enjoying hunting, and sharing those experiences with his family and friends.
Gardner comes from a long line of hunters. Photo Credit: Riley Gardner
In fact, Gardner is actually a third-generation bowhunter, because his father and grandfather also bowhunt. Based on his experience at Ravlin Hill Archery, Gardner encourages his elders to go there for supplies and services. He also plans to pass their heritage onto his own children someday, making him even more valuable to Ravlin Hill Archery.
“If I have kids, I’ll pass down the bowhunting traditions because it’s a great sport that should continue to live on,” he said. “It teaches patience, it’s great for conservation, and it allows you to enjoy the outdoors. Plus, it’s relaxing to sit in a tree for a few hours.”
All retailers want devoted customers like Gardner. In fact, most archery shops already have them. That’s because they know the moral of this story: If you work hard, market effectively, and treat customers with care and respect, your shop should flourish.
Bottom line: When asking yourself what you’re thankful for this year, your answer is probably the same thing you said last year, and what you’ll say every Thanksgiving for years to come: “I’m thankful for my business and every one of my customers.”