Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Time in Bob Moates Sports Shop

Few people go into gun shops because of the stigma of weapons. I target shoot as a hobby and to get my target shooting gear, I go to Bob Moats Sport Shop. After a year of going there,  I have discovered the variety of people that are customers, and the employees that work there that are good to talk to, and ask for advice. It honestly scared me a little at first handling the guns the first time I went in, but I discovered that it was fun to handle and shoot the guns. I could relate to the people in Bob’s because I am just as passionate about guns, and target shooting as they are. It surprised me about the knowledge I have gained from this experience. Maybe people will see that guns are not so bad, and that they are good to have for self defense. I was very delighted to have an inside look at the way a gun shop operates as well, and I talked to five employees about their experiences there.  

My boyfriend, Jason, parked his Hyundai Sonata in a parking place at Bob Moats Sports Shop.  Bobs Sports shop is a one story store made of dark brown wood and red brick. It sits on Hull Street in a lot, and has a house next to it where the owner’s second wife lives. There is a soda machine out front and ash trays as well.  I opened the wooden glass doors, and went inside hearing a bell chime as I walk in. It was a Tuesday, and there were customers there already. It was pretty packed for a weekday.

The store is filled with all kinds of merchandise such as handguns behind glass cases, rifles and shotguns on racks. There are target shooting papers on a rack near the gun repair room. One side of the store has fishing goods. There is a small section that houses archery bows and accessories. Some space near the bathroom and the repair shopped housed tanks filled with fish for fishing. A section of the shop houses reloading goods, and more glass cases filled with civil war goods, pocket knives, swords, and tasers. Gun cleaning kits were between the knife and handgun display.

There were hunting gear clothes, earmuffs, and an array of bumper stickers across from the shotgun rack section. The floors are red brick, and the walls are filled with gun, fishing, and hunting merchandise except the wall with the tanks. They have a few racks with gun magazines and books as well on a variety of topics. The house near Bob’s hosts a concealed weapons class where you have to sit in a classroom for 5 hours in order to get a concealed carry permit. They even sell dog licenses. A sign proclaiming “Do not take guns apart” is on the hand gun glass case. There is also another sign that says: “Smile, you’re on camera everywhere in the store.” There are cameras everywhere to obviously deter thieves from stealing to recording gun purchases.

Jack, one of the employees who works, there calls the shop a “Mom and Pop” business because its original owner was Robert C. Moates who established the shop in 1959, and has been in business for 50 years. The owner died on July 21, 2009 of cancer. He was a gun-rights activist and operated three more shops in Charlotte Courthouse and Keyesville. His wife Grace Moates now owns the shop, and he played Robert E. Lee when he reenacted the Civil War. 

I went up to the side across from the cash register to talk to one of the employees named Jack Kenny who wears glasses with a blue shirt and jeans. He has short dark brown hair and light blue eyes. He is from Richmond Virginia and is very knowledgeable in various subjects. I had the privilege to ask him a few questions.

I was holding my notebook out. I put it on the table to write down the interview with Jack. There are things Jack likes about the job, and things he does not like such as “I do not like putting up the inventory, but nobody does.” He says matter of factly in a southern accent then continues, “But we all have to do it. Other than that I do not have any complaints.” He concludes. As for the most interesting thing he has seen?  “Getting robbed, having a gun put up against my neck,” he answers. I was curious so I asked them how they got the license to sell the firearms from various weapon makers. It is a long process. There is a whole lot of tape to go through, but Jack summed it up nicely. “Extensive backgrounds check by ATF and FBI. You must have a retail store front to be able to get a license.” He then proceeded to tell me that they have to keep gun records for 20 years to trace the guns serial numbers in case something happens. I went to the store room where they do the weapons repair room to see big boxes filled with gun purchases.
I tried to get an interview with Wade, but he does not like media attention. He even put the sign of the cross at me because he did not like it at all. He is really cool though very knowledgeable and talkative. 
The next day I got Richard Hill who has red hair, green eyes wearing glasses, a red shirt and blue jeans. He is very southern, nice, honest, knowledgeable about life, and guns, a family man, and a good guy at heart. What he says about his job is, “I do not mind working with people, likes to shoot and fish. It is enjoyable for a job because I am interested in it.”     

The reason why you should buy a gun according to him is because, “If you are that concerned about your safety, and take it seriously then you should learn to use one for personal defense.”  Some people buy guns from there for hunting, self-defense, target practice, and sometimes you get people who buy them to collect, and not shoot them.  One customer named Derick Owens who has curly hair with blue eyes, and lives in downtown Richmond answered, “Protection, and for Target shooting.” I asked, “What kind of gun and why?”  He thought about it then replied with, “Glocks and Smith and Wesson because they are good names and he likes the way it looks.”

Richard’s interesting gun that he met while working there is, “a 10 shot 8mm battle rifle that is Egyptian and it is 45 years old.” His other interesting thing is, “Met my wife there,” and smiles.
I was lucky enough to ask Grace Moates,  Bob’s second wife. She from the Phillipines and has short black hair, brown eyes, glasses, and is wearing a jean jacket and a purple shirt. She has a trace of an accent. I asked her how she feels about owning a gun shop her words were, “I feel proud and excited that is the only feeling I have.”  What she likes, “I have come to love the business after 22 years working there.” This is what she does not like about the job, “The pressure sometimes because I oversee all aspects even the paper work side.”  I asked her, “How did you and Bob meet?” She replies, “We met through a mutual friend in Manila.” The things she likes about the job, “I get to play with guns,” she says happily. I prompt her to explain more of her interesting things she finds on the job, “The interesting innovations that keep coming up. The engineering geniuses in this country are amazing because they keep coming up with interesting stuff every year.”    When Bob died there was never a time when the shop closed down because she did not think about it a single moment because she wanted it to go on.
I talked to Ken Rathjen who is from Northern Virginia in Tyson’s Corner. He has white hair, hazel eyes, glasses, and is wearing a light green shirt and tan pants.  The most interesting thing on the job for him, “The people,” he laughs, “You get all kinds of fascinating people coming through here.”  How can you tell if someone is bad or good coming through here? On one hand, “Talking to them you will get a feel for it. Once you listen to them after a while you can tell what they will say, but some you can never tell if they keep coming back because some do and some do not.”  What he likes about the job, “I like it because it is part time. It gets you out of the house, and fun to talk to people plus I learn stuff. Some days are better than others.” He laughs. His not like? “Some of the people that come through here, and a guy came back that did not like the price after it was raised. The guy was a retired California cop who tried to sue us. People like that.”  Why he works here? “It is close to home believe it or not, and I came here to shop several years before working here.”     

Lastly is Dave Hancock who has grayish brown hair, dark brown eyes, glasses, grey jeans and a purple shirt. His interesting thing: “The people that come in here are the most interesting because they are a bit of everything with different backgrounds.” That is also the reason why he likes his job. What he does not like, “The people we decline because of some statement they make saying things that make us uncomfortable with a sale. A statement that makes them think they will misuse the guns.” He has been working there part time for 25 years and full time 6 years. His interesting item, “An antique drilling double shotgun barrel with extraordinary in quality engraving belonged to the red baron, and we are doing research on it.” He is from Chesterfield, and out of all the places he has been to he likes Switzerland the best. Why does he work at Bob’s? “I’ve known Bob since I was 10 years old since my uncle used to live near him.”The most difficult issue to deal with: he laughs, “Former owner’s sons,” then continues, “Criminals attempting to buy guns illegally.”
  I have gotten to know them for over a year now. They do have interesting guns with a history that will surprise you. The people I have met are pretty amazing coming from all kinds of backgrounds. I go to Bob’s because of the amazing people that work there, and the customers that share my hobby along the way.

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