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Dire times for small bait stores - your loss

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Stillwater / Fishers bemoan local bait shop's closing

Economy, big stores force dealer out

By Mary Divine and Chris Niskanen

Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 07/25/2008 12:45:27 AM CDT

It looks like it's the end of the line for Stillwater's only bait shop.

Jimmy's Bait and Tackle will close Aug. 31, unless owner Jimmy Newton can find a new location in downtown Stillwater.

"I'd like to stay in Stillwater. It's definitely something that is needed in the community," Newton said. "(But) it's not looking real good. It's hard to find a place to rent around here that could accommodate a bait shop. It has to be near the river ... and water supply is a big thing. Also, the monthly rent has to be reasonable in order to support the seasonal sales of the bait shop."

For 65 years, a bait shop has operated in spot nestled against a limestone bluff on Minnesota 95 on the south side of town. But Newton said it's getting harder and harder for his small store to compete with the big sporting-goods retailers who offer discounted prices on fishing tackle.

While Gander Mountain, Cabela's and Mills Fleet Farm battle for dominance in Minnesota's fishing market, little bait-and-tackle stores suffer.

"It's unfortunate, but those large retail shops attract a lot of customers," Newton said. "Our bread and butter is the bait, and it's hard to sell enough in those areas to succeed. People should take a second look and make sure they are supporting their small-town bait shops and other businesses to make sure that they do survive."

Newton, 34, of Maplewood, purchased the bait shop 3 1/2 years ago. It was previously known as Brothers Bait and Tackle, owned by brothers Tim and Mark Dornseif. Before that, the shop was known as Stiles Bait and Tackle, after owners Harry and Diane Stiles, and for years it operated as Bluff Bait.

"We're not sure what we want to do with the space," said Craig Beemer, who owns the shop's space and the adjacent River Oasis Cafe. "I just got into the restaurant, and I've got my hands full. I'm not going to immediately lease it again, and I'm not going to immediately expand. I just want to spend some time getting my arms around this business."

Newton said the closing of the bait shop, which had been open year-round, is the end of an era for Stillwater.

"The fact that Stillwater prides themselves on being a small-town community, I feel that a lot of that is being lost," Newton said. "We have customers who come in here who are very upset or very depressed that the shop is closing."

Dave Farr, a fishing guide and tournament fisherman who lives in Stillwater, is one of Jimmy's best customers. He stops in regularly, especially in the winter and spring, to buy live bait.

"I wish they could do something about it," Farr said. "The small bait stores are slowly becoming a thing of the past. It's tough. Now, I've got to drive to Hudson if I want to get bait .... It's going to be a definite inconvenience."

Ray Kappers manages more than 1,700 hunting and fishing license agents for the Department of Natural Resources. He said times are tough for small bait and tackle dealers.

"Most of the ones I've had to close in the last six months have stated it was due to the economy,'' Kappers said. "They're mostly small (stores), but there is always someone else who wants to open up there or nearby. I have 300 (stores) on the listing waiting for a machine (to sell DNR licenses)."

Kappers said he doesn't like to see Jimmy's close because it is a proven license seller. Jimmy's has sold 1,023 DNR licenses since Feb. 18, which "is quite high for someone that size," Kappers said.

If no one opens another fishing business at that location, Kappers will be looking to create another DNR license agent nearby.

"My ultimate goal is customers don't have to go more than five miles to buy a license,'' Kappers said. "Ten miles is the max that we want."

For now, everything at Jimmy's is on sale, said Mark Wolkerstorfer, a store employee and longtime customer. Everything except rods and reels is half-off he said.

"We've got a whole bunch of crappie minnows, fatheads, small and medium suckers, large suckers, shiners, night crawlers, nitro-green crawlers, jumbo leaches, small and medium leaches, wax worms and regular angle worms," he said. "It's just a bummer we're closing. We're all real sad."

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It's a shame to watch the indys go down. I try to patronize them as much as possible.

[Note from Admin, edited. Please read forum policy before posting again,Thank-you.]

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It is sad to see jimmy's close up. That bate shop is a part of Stillwater. I still call it bluff bait or the oasis. The way Stillwater is growing you would think they would be doing better.

I'm heading up to Big Marine today to work and I pass right by jimmy's on the way up. I'll be sure to stop in and buy a rod and reel before he marks them down. When I go home I'll stop in again and buy more and get bait for tomorrow.

I'll do what I can to say thanks. The small guy is getting easier to overlook and we sometimes take for granted the things that are under our noses untill they are gone.

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That's sad to hear. I try to support the local shops. I always buy my bait at Vados, Gimps or Blue Ribbon, but have been at this store a few times.

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There are some that I try to stop at when I go threw town. I guess I am just a "Bait store Junkie". I am still upset that The Sport Spot in Cambridge is closed. It is to bad the guy who runs the bait shop up the road from me is such a dink or I would spend more $$$ in his shop too. I still get some thigs from him, but not a lot.

Guess I will have to make a trip to Stillwater. Does he have good Sucker Minnows????

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Just one more reason to keep bass pro shops out of here,

I am as guilty as anyone of patronizing that large retailer with outlets in both Owatonna and Rogers, as well as the other one named after a boy goose and a large hill.

Ironically I had put a link to a smaller company which is mentioned by name in another guy's post. The company I linked to is not a sponsor here which was indeed a policy violation (so sorry again about that).

It's those independent shops that always stick out in my childhood memories - probably because there were just more of them back then. Sorry to hear the Sport Spot in Cambridge bought it.

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I hate to see those small bait shops close. I love to go into those little mom and pop operations and look around. There's not much of them left at all in my part of Iowa. When we go to Minnesota, I like to stop at as many as I can.

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for what it's worth, I noticed a For Sale sign on Shuman's in Monti today....

another one in an already endangered species it seems.

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I see bait store in Sauk Center closed and the one in Dalton is closing shortly. Both of them I believe could not pass the gas tank inspection so they closed. Man I miss the one in Sauk. It was always the place I went even if I was not up there to fish.

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for what it's worth, I noticed a For Sale sign on Shuman's in Monti today....

another one in an already endangered species it seems.

Yea, I saw it a couple of days ago,too. They have only been there about 5 years,or so? It's really a bummer to have the local shops go like this.

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Sometimes it's hard to beat the bargain of the big chains. I'm in Alaska at the moment (parents moved up here, I'm helping them with the transition for a few weeks), and we wanted some tackle to go salmon fishing with the family. Picked up a few of the cheapest rod/reel combos at Walmart for $30 each, they worked just wonderfully, we've now got a freezer with 60+ pounds of coho and sockeye fillet.

Stopping by one of the "small local bait shops" near the kenai river, you would have to fork out more than $150 for a rod and reel. Sure, they're pretty much all custom made and I'm sure they are amazing quality, but if it's a choice between $120 or $600+ for everyone to go fishing... It's hard to say "support local business" in that kind of situation.

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Its alot cheaper just to trap your own bait and pick your own crawlers. I picked 8 doz crawlers in a little more than half an hour in my yard last time it rained. Its hard on your back, but saves some serious money...and home picked ones are much bigger.

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Small bait stores are great for nostalgia and decent fishing advice. Unfortunately, nostalgia doesn't always sell to well. As for fishing advice, I'd say it's about 50-50 for good information. Seems like some of them are just trying to sell more livebait while others are just going on the information they get from other anglers--they haven't fished themselves because they are always running their shop!

That said, shops like Blue Ribbon, Bluewater and the old Marv Koeps are great. Those are what give small bait stores a good name and make us wish there were more around. You can't get that kind of service, advice and assistance in ANY big box store.

Ironically, websites such as this are actually also harmful to those small bait stores because why run to the baitshop for the fishing report when you can just click on it?

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Even with questionable fishing advise from a bait shop, I would rather get my bait there. It just adds something to the excitement and anticipation of the trip. Like going to the ball game and getting a hot dog; some things just go together.

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Its alot cheaper just to trap your own bait and pick your own crawlers. I picked 8 doz crawlers in a little more than half an hour in my yard last time it rained. Its hard on your back, but saves some serious money...and home picked ones are much bigger.

I do the same thing. I will be picking up a minnow net for getting my own minnows. the crawlers that show up after a nice rain by where I live are fantastic. Plus, I believe that the fish like the "wild caught" crawlers and minnows a little better.

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I like going to small bait shops.

No long lines of people and parking madness or where I'm walking around through aisles of things with a bait bucket.

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