A November 18, 2010, fire at 9352 South 670 West in Sandy, Utah completely destroyed the building and its contents. The 40 firefighters who subdued the nighttime conflagration stopped its spread to surrounding properties, but could not prevent a million-dollar loss.
“It’s surreal to see how quickly your life can be reduced to rubble,” says Ed Brewer, the Secretary-Treasurer of Sportsman’s Outdoor Products, the property demolished in the fire. Fortunately, the company had a good insurance policy including a business interruption clause. Today, they are back in business rebuilding equipment and filling orders.
“I’m just glad nobody was hurt,” says Brewer. “We’ve moved across the street and have been able to put most of our 52 employees back to work turning out all of the soft goods that Sportsman’s Outdoor Products was known for before the fire.” Amazingly, the company mascot—a tarantula named Bullseye—was in its tank at the neighbor’s when the fire started.
Company President John Tilby began making leather wrist slings while working part-time at an archery shop and going to school at Brigham Young University in the mid ‘80s. He sold them to the store owner who then asked for Cordura armguards—and Polar-Fleece fanny packs. One thing, you might say, led to another.
That “another” was a relatively simple sliced section of Polar-Fleece fabric that Tilby realized would make a great bowstring silencer. Besides being lightweight and waterproof, it was amazingly effective at dampening bowstring vibration. Tilby put together a pair, sold them to the store, and named them “Tarantulas” because of their uncanny resemblance to the big hairy spiders.
Before long Tilby had more work than his kitchen table could handle and he enlisted his brother-in-law, Ed Brewer. In 1988 they changed the company name from Tilco Archery to Sportsman’s Outdoor Products, but they have never quit making the eight-legged Tarantula string silencer which today costs a modest $4. In 1995 the two partners built their own 14,000-square-foot space in Sandy, Utah—a space that lasted 15 years until the November 2010 fire. So now they are starting over across the street. “But we are still going to use our same address,” Brewer says.
Big steps, one after another. The first big break came at one of Stan Chiras’ early Archery Trade Shows in Louisville, where they shared a 10x10-foot booth. You have to sell a lot of $4 string silencers to make a living though—so that first successful product was soon followed by a line of armguards and slings, bow carriers and string shields. Anything an outdoors person needs that can be cut and sewn, this Made-in-America company can design and fabricate.
According to Tilby, their success with outdoor soft goods was not without bumps in the road. “We’ve learned that it’s easy to lose focus,” he says. “You start looking at all sorts of things outside of your core capabilities and thinking that because others are being successful in those areas you ought to jump in that same direction. That can be dangerous.”
Today Sportsman’s Outdoor Products offers six product brands. Talk about step by step!
1. “Tarantula” includes bowstring silencers, bow slings, armguards, bow hooks, fleece silencing pads, bow carriers, bow hooks and bow holsters, optics accessories, and cases for crossbows and compound bows. The Tarantula line of quivers for target, field and hunting begins with an inexpensive $10 tubular youth quiver and tops out at the innovative $140 G2 MAQ Quiver Pack. The compact G2 offers 17 compartments with 1,600 cubic inches of space and an attached 4-arrow quiver.
2. “Horn Hunter” is a line of what Brewer calls “innovative hunting packs and accessories designed by hunters for serious hunters.” Horn Hunter packs combine comfort with function. SOP has designed everything from binocular holsters and traditional fanny packs to the massive 5,000-cubic-inch Full Curl System ($330) with internal pack frame and plenty of straps and pockets for an extended wilderness adventure. Horn Hunter also offers a wide line of hunting accessories from attachable rifle or shotgun slings to a binocular harness.
3. “Beard Buster” is for the growing turkey hunting market, which Brewer believes continues to evolve commercially. “Not long ago, turkey hunters wanted vests with lots of pockets and comfortable seats they could lean against a tree when they called,” he says. “Now pop-up blinds are hot. We don’t manufacture blinds, but we do make a pack for hunters hunting from them.” The $80 Beard Buster Blind Hog is lightweight but can accommodate a blind, two folded chairs, folded decoys, a bow or shotgun, and all the other accessories that turkey hunters use.
4. “Splash Waterfowl” offers decoy bags, blind packs, floating shotgun cases and bird keepers for waterfowl hunters. The new $66 Volcano Floating Decoy Bag, for example, is designed to float flat like a raft with plastic poles to support its draw-string-open mouth and keep it upright and open. As the bag floats a hunter simply tosses decoys inside. It holds up to 3.5 dozen decoys.
5. “Mud Buddy” is a flexible storage system that helps waterfowl hunters keep gear organized inside (or outside) a boat. The $80 Space Saver Gun Sleeve, for instance, holds two shotguns (or paddles or fishing poles), and has a reinforced bottom and a durable nylon mesh panel for drainage. It attaches with screws or t-bolts.
6. “Snug-Fit” products are outdoor-gear cases with foam interiors molded expressly to hold specific items secure. Cases are available for binoculars and spotting scopes, pistols and tactical rifles.
Sportsman’s Outdoor Products is represented by two rep groups and its products can be ordered through most distributors. Lone Peak Marketing (801) 572-3579 represents 11 western states. Hudalla & Associates (www.hudallaassociates.com (218) 346-2734) is responsible for the balance of the country.
To find out more about products from Sportsman’s Outdoor Products check their website at www.gohornhunter.com or www.sophuntinggear.com or call (801) 562-8712. SOP is located at 9352 South 670 West, Sandy, UT 84070.