Gun company rebounding well from fire

When the original location of J & E Guns, at the ill-fated Hotel Do De, burned in 2012, much of the stock that wasn’t firearms had to be written off.

Water damage destroyed most of the merchandise, and the firearms had to be saved.

“Once we got the guns out, we had more than two dozen people show up to help,” manager John Walters said. “We bought about every can of WD-40 in the county and tore the guns apart to clean them.”

Even though the guns escaped without damage and were straight out of the box, he said, they could not be sold as new. The next summer, the store held an auction to get rid of the former store’s guns and start new.

J & E now occupies a new, larger space just outside Bellefonte that opened in October, Walters said, and offers a wide range of on-site services.

The firearms themselves are naturally the main draw and, he said, the store can get almost anything. There are some lower-end brands they don’t normally stock, he said, simply because they’re “kind of junky.”

“We like to stock a better quality gun,” he said, “and in the end you’re not paying all that much more.”

The store deals in most brands, he said: Beretta, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Kimber, Taurus and Springfield Armory, to name a few. He also ordered a supply of Taylor’s, which deal in reproduction single-action revolvers and rifles from the mid- to late 19th century.

The store offers a full range of gun supplies as well, including holsters, magazines, cleaning kits and reloading supplies.

“The only thing we really don’t offer is hunting-related clothing,” Walters said.

A large portion of sales is attributed to the reloading supplies, he said. A lot of people were glad to see J & E back in business because of its supply of powder, primer and bullets.

“You can’t just walk into Wal-Mart or Dick’s or any of the box stores and get that,” he said.

The store might even branch out into black powder sales, he said — something it couldn’t get into at the old location.

The store didn’t have much luck with muzzle-loading firearms in the past, he said. Now, with flintlock season starting after Christmas in Pennsylvania, there’s a demand for black powder supplies.

Right now, if someone wanted to get black powder, they have to go to Clearfield or Philipsburg to find it, he said.

The store offers a consignment service, he said, as well as layaway. If a customer wants to buy a piece off the Web, it can be shipped to the store and transferred to the buyer.

Staff members specialize in different areas, he said. Some specialize in AK rifles, some in ARs, some in sporting rifles. A gunsmith will be available onsite to offer a line of smithing opportunities.

“We’ve got a fair amount of expertise on the floor depending on what you’re looking for,” he said.

A mix of customers come through the doors, Walters said. It depends on the season — in September and October, the store gets its fair share of hunters because hunting season is near. In the spring, when it starts to get warm out and people are able to go back outside again, they will see a pickup of enthusiasts looking to go shooting.

Having just made a large purchase, the store is ready for visitors. Employees worked on unloading almost 1,000 pounds of new firearms and merchandise in mid-January, the result of two large dealer shows at the beginning of the year.

“You have a lot of purchases at the end of the year with Black Friday and Christmas so close to each other,” he said. “Everyone likes to draw down their inventory at the end of the year then bulk back up in the new year.”