Industry affected by economy

Eric Smith

In the past several months, hard economic times have hit everything including the outdoors world. And in Topeka, while some are feeling the pain, others are surviving just fine.

Bob Barnes of the Dam Store in Perry, which includes a bait store, restaurant and convenience store, has been in business since 1996 and said this year has been rough.

“It’s slowed a lot,” said Barnes. “It hasn’t been the best year. We’ve been here since ’96 and it’s probably been one of the worst so far.”

He said while he believes people are still fishing, they aren’t spending as much money on it.

“Of course school just started too, and that has a big effect,” said Barnes. “And so that’s a negative also. The two combined together, [business] is way down, probably 40 percent. It’s a lot.”

R.R. Shumway, also known as Cat Daddy and one of Topeka’s better known anglers, has also experienced the troubling economy through his catfish adventure business.

“Two years ago I’ve seen just a little decrease, but this year, this year hit me hard,” said Cat Daddy. “Yeah, I think everybody is just grabbing a five-gallon bucket and going fishing on the bank.

On the other side of things, several Topeka outdoors businesses said they have not been affected financially.

Mike Calvin is the owner of The Dock, a business that has been in his family since 1986, and he said he believes outdoors activity is doing just fine.

“I think it’s on the rise compared to paying $50 to take my family to the movies,” said Calvin. “I haven’t compared the numbers from last year, but I feel like my business is up. It sure isn’t down. Fishing is just a cheaper form of entertainment.”

Don Hutley is in the same boat. He owns the Bait Hut and Waterscape Concepts with his wife Sharon and they, in their third year of business, are up about 25 percent in both stores from last year.

“There are also a lot of people getting laid off,” said Hutley. “Goodyear, for example, lays a certain part of their people off one week per month. You’d think that, well, that’s tough on those folks. But those folks decide to go fishing and so they come to my store. That brought our profits up when comparing it to the year before. I’d say economy-wise, we’re ahead of the game, not behind the game.”

Dennis Brown of B Squared Outdoor Sports, an archery pro shop, doesn’t see his business or others like it going under any time fast, saying that they’ve avoided the crunch and actually are up from last year.

“It’s their passion,” said Brown. “People are obsessed with it. And when you’re passionate about something, you’ll eat Ramen noodles, but you’ll still scratch the itch of your passion, whatever that is.”