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(Editor's note: This version also corrects the version in the Sept. 24, 2008, issue, in which it was stated that the business sells 1,000 guns a day. That actually should reflect the number of guns in stock day-to-day at the store. It was an error made during editing, and we apologize for any inconvenience the error may have caused.)
By SHARON GRAVES
One of the oldest businesses in Carroll County has evolved over more than a century; and while part of it is gone, another continues to grow and attract customers from miles around.
Glauber’s Shoes, opened in 1863, was billed as the oldest shoe store in Kentucky until it closed in 2007. The store, however, spunoff Glauber’s Sports, 106 Fourth St., located behind the former shoe store’s Main Street location.
Randy Glauber took over the store after his dad, John, retired a few years ago. The younger Glauber is the father of four; the group shoots and goes fishing; some of his children hunt, some don’t, he said.
Speaking in a soft, steady voice, Glauber tells about items he loves, has worked on and sold for years. He started out working weekends as a youngster in the shoe store.
“When I started the sixth grade, I’d walk the three blocks from the school to the store every day,” he said. “I worked summers, and when I graduated from high school in 1981, I started full time. I’ve been here for years and years. I have customers who say they remember when I couldn’t see over the counter.”
Though his father stepped aside three years ago, the pair continues to work together, keeping an eye on the market and “tweaking” the store’s operations. “We change things, and we are terribly out of room,” Randy Glauber said.
And it is clear he is on target about the space problem. The store is neat, but packed with merchandise. The office, which has the feel of a long history, is filled to the brim with guns stacked on most unused surfaces.
The store itself has a certain ambiance. “This used to be an old tobacco barn,” Glauber said. “I don’t know why my dad decided to make a store out of a tobacco barn, but he did. I can remember playing in it as a kid. It had a dirt floor. The rafters that you see in here are part of the barn. Like everything else over the years, it has just evolved.”
The second floor serves as the showroom for the many trophies of turkey, deer, bobcat and elk. There’s an elevator chair that goes to the second floor, which Glauber said he traded for after an older man came in one day and had trouble managing the stairs.
The device also is useful in hauling merchandise either up or down the long flight of steps.
Guns are the main focus
The word “Sports” in the name is more of a misnomer; the store really focuses on one sport – shooting. If you need a handgun, a shotgun or a rifle, they’ve probably got it, with about 1,000 guns always in stock.
They also have muzzleloaders, bows, and paintball equipment – plus all the ammunition anyone could ever need, and Carhartt clothing and workboots.
Fishing gear once was a staple at the store, but was discontinued about four years ago. “It wasn’t without regret ... because we have had it forever,” Glauber said. “It was taking up about 25 percent of the store, and I needed that space really bad.”
Plus, it was very seasonal. “If we had a big rainy spring, we’d miss part of that season,” he said. “It just made sense for us to change.”
Keeping an eye on the markets, domestic and foreign
A chart on an office wall helps Glauber keep track of business throughout the year, and also provides comparisons to previous years. He studies trends, listens to market news and has learned to be aware of global market conditions.
“There has been an increase [in price on] anything coming out of Europe because the dollar has been so weak against the Euro,” he said. “Anything out of Germany has gone up quite a bit more. Premium optics come from Germany or Austria, just like your best cars and your best watches.
“I never thought I’d have to understand the value of the dollar verses the Euro, and I still don’t really have to understand, I just have to respond.”
The price of copper, brass, zinc and lead also has affected the business through all those little boxes of ammunition. “
Raw materials for ammunition have just gone through the roof; everything has gone up,” he said. “You can sit and watch it go up.”
Glauber’s Sports is a busy place as the phone rings every few minutes and Glauber has to stop what he’s doing to call the National Instant Check System at the FBI for a background check every time someone wants to buy a gun.
He said there are three possible answers he will get from the agency: one is to proceed; one is to delay, which could mean a customer must wait as long as three business days to make the purchase; and the third is one he rarely gets – a denial.
Someone buying a gun can be denied by the FBI check for several reasons, including a felony conviction, a dishonorable discharge from the military, a current restraining order, being under indictment or being a fugitive from justice.
Occasionally, he’s had a case of mistaken identity. “We don’t get very many denials, because we don’t have that customer base,” Glauber said. “Most of our customers are pretty good eggs.”
Glauber said his customers can be separated into four categories: “There’s the hunter, the shooter, the collector and the self-defense market. Since concealed carry laws have been instituted in Kentucky, that segment of the market has really changed. The guns have gotten smaller, easier to conceal and there is a lot more selection. Those four categories keep us pretty busy.”
Glauber’s carries everything a gun owner needs: holsters, optics and ammunition are a large part of his inventory. “No doubt, we are one of the largest ammunition dealers around.”
Unlike large “box” stores like Wal-Mart, Glaubers will stock items in small amounts. “We may only sell one or two boxes a year” of a certain kind of ammunition, he said. “But we want to have that box when somebody needs it.”
“What I like about retail is, it is never really the same from one day to the next,” he said. “It’s different people coming through the door, or different situations. ... Some of the decisions that have to be made are pretty daunting, but it’s always different. No two days are ever alike.”