WARREN, Pa. – Starting your own business is never easy, doing so in the middle of a pandemic makes things even more challenging.
That didn’t stop Pennwild Outdoors co-owners Ray Sturdevant and Sue Bingman from opening their doors in August 2020. On Saturday, Aug. 21, they celebrated both their first year in business and their “Grand Opening.”
“Opening during COVID wasn’t the greatest time,” Sturdevant said. “But luckily this industry is growing, the outdoors industry, in general, is growing because of COVID. So we really had no shortage of customers. But getting inventory has been tough, and just being able to have events, has been tough. So it’s kind of nice that things are opening up a little bit and that we’ve been able to do stuff like this.”
They started the day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, then featured events such as turkey calling demonstrations and basic instruction on fly tying.
Though Pennwild has been open for a year, the genesis of the store began nearly five years ago with the passing of another outdoor enthusiast.
“When Darin Freeborough, the former owner of Animalistics passed we kind of mentioned jokingly that we’d love to open a store,” Sturdevant said. “We very much wanted to try to buy (Animalistics), but due to extenuating circumstances, we couldn’t. That was five or six years ago, we’ve been working on it ever since.”
Pennwild eventually settled on a location inside the former Loranger Building on Clark Street in Warren. The current location has been more than Sturdevant and Bingman could’ve asked for.
“I already knew the landowner,” Sturdevant said. “It’s a great location, it’s right on the river. There’s ample parking, and people are slowly starting to figure out there is stuff down here.”
The neighbors have been a welcome addition as well, Sturdevant added.
“We’re friends with the people from AO (Allegheny Outfitters),” Sturdevant said. “I think they’re actually happier we opened than we are because they often had tourists complaining because they didn’t know where to get bait, they don’t know where to get fishing supplies. (AO) didn’t really want to send them to Walmart because everybody wants to support local. And so they’ve been fantastic.”
Even the neighbors who aren’t directly involved with the outdoors have found ways to be supportive.
“The brewery (Bent Run) is great,” Sturdevant said. “They host a fishing tournament, right outside in the fall. So that works well with us. You know we all kind of have a little bit of an outdoor bent to what we do. So, it creates a nice little community.”
With its first year in the books, Pennwild is looking for even bigger things in its second year.
“We’re really just trying to grow,” Sturdevant said. “We carry a good amount of inventory, especially on the fishing side. We really want to start growing our hunting side more and expanding into some of the additional space that we have available to us. More than anything though we just want to keep providing the best services and goods we can for our customers. I mean that’s really what this is about for us is to just be helpful and help everybody out and get people into the outdoors.”