Taking Aim

McCoy’s Country Store is a mainstay for customers who can find anything they need, from a tank of gas to a cup of coffee to a new shotgun.

Taking Aim Small-town McCoy’s Outdoors shoots down the competition with great prices and service By Lisa Carey

It’s a small-town secret you can’t wait to spill. McCoy’s Outdoors of Marianna is a humble gas, grocery and outdoors store on an out-of-the-way street, by the railroad tracks, in a primarily rural county. And it’s got game. It competes mightily with Walmart, just a stone’s throw away on the interstate. It holds its own against Internet sales and other big name outfitters. It has survived, thrived and even grown in a depressed economy.

“What you’ve got here is the great American entrepreneurial success story,” says Art Kimbrough, CEO and president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

Kimbrough attributes the store’s success to generations of consistent and exceptional service plus the ability to offer exactly what buyers want at highly competitive prices. “They have amazing product availability, delivered quickly and graciously,” explains Kimbrough. “McCoy’s runs a big town business while maintaining small town relationships. For that, they’ve been rewarded with a passionate and loyal customer base, drawing business from hundreds of miles away. The sky is the limit for McCoy’s.”

Hidden away

There is no glimmer of the bounty or success that lies within McCoy’s Outdoors from its modest storefront. Located on Jefferson Street, hunters’ trucks block the gas pumps and bottle neck at the unmarked parking lot entrance. Simple signs mark the shop front. Dogs bark. The smell of oysters, hay and petroleum wafts through the air.  Men in olive green and caps crowd the store’s door and line up five deep at the cashier.  
What could be intimidating and over-whelming to a new visitor, is at the same time immensely warm, friendly and welcoming.There are quick smiles, held open doors and calls out to “come on in.” And then comes a sense of happy discovery.

Beyond the simple facade, the facility spreads out wondrously with wide open rooms of treasures connected by hallways lined with merchandise. The plain and strictly-functional convenience store front gives way to the clothing area. Then on to the gun shop to the archery shop and an indoor archery range. Brand name clothing mingles with high-end bows, next to weapons and tree stands. Bright, clean and teaming with customers, you have to look back at the entrance to get your bearings.

“I usually give about five tours a day,” laughs General Manager Joey Peacock. “Customers pull up to the gas station, walk in to pay and get this ‘what the heck is going on here’ look.” Peacock, who has a background in national sales and customer service, has come to recognize the “wow look” in newcomers. “We hear, ‘Oh my goodness!’ quite a lot here.”

What at first may seem haphazard and rambling actually makes good sense. A hunter can stop for gas in the morning, grab corn for a feeder, load up on coffee and snacks for the day, stock up on ammunition and get ice for his cooler. After a day of hunting, the same customer can end his day at McCoy’s by showing off his kill, grabbing more ice, buying no-scent laundry detergent, Tink’s deer lures and Primos doe bleat calls. Top it off with some fresh oysters for dinner. But to offer so much, the small storefront had to grow.

Taking flight

The McCoy enterprise is currently owned by Tim and Suzette McCoy but was started by Tim’s father, Troy, in the early 1970s. It began as a convenience store and gas station, complete with used tires and full service fill-ups. “Tim worked here since he was 10 years old, and it’s the only place he’s ever worked,” says Peacock. “Then, 10 years ago, Tim bought the business from his father.”

Over the years, the business successfully added feed and oysters to the line-up. But it was when son Tim noticed the bevy of hunters coming in for feeder corn that the seed of today’s expansion took root.

“Tim watched the hunters coming in for feed, in particular before archery season. He recognized the specific needs of this class of hunter and decided to open an archery shop in the small back office. Soon after, it was 350 feet of elbow-to-elbow hunters. He knew he was on to something,” explains Peacock.

In what today would be called progressive and green, owner Tim McCoy managed his company’s growth over the years the best he could. He purchased several small abandoned buildings around him, rehabilitated the properties, cut holes in the walls and connected the buildings with newly-constructed hallways.

He bought up an old beer joint out back, an abandoned bar with the building just used as storage. McCoy remodeled and connected the two properties with a newly-built breezeway. In August 2010, he opened a gun shop in similar fashion — connecting another nearby property with a merchandise-lined hallway.

The result is a maze of breezeways and open rooms with a new discovery around every corner.

Today’s business

These days, the enterprise runs as two complementary businesses. The convenience and gas and oysters up front provide for customers’ daily needs. The gun shop, archery room and apparel shop outfit outdoorsmen and provide for seasonal needs and gifts.

The merchandise is wide ranging, from specialty guns and bows to tree stands and fishing staples to game cameras to pink camo hoodies. Often surprising first-time visitors, McCoy’s offers several popular clothing brands, including best-selling Columbia, UnderArmor and Browning. “We take that as a sign of our growing success,” says Peacock. “We used to have to pursue high-end merchandise, and now the manufacturers approach us.”  
The arsenal is varied at the gun shop and includes Beretta, Kimber, Sig Sauer, to name just a few. Special order guns arrive in store usually within three days. Bow hunters will find popular Bowtech, Bear and Hoyt models among others, complemented by a full line of sights, quivers, stabilizers and more.
Seasoned and friendly staff members, including two certified bow technicians, assist customers and set up archery equipment.

By Peacock’s research and estimate, only 3 percent of Americans hunt or fish. Yet it is a mega-billion-dollar industry of passionate outdoorsmen and women who enjoy outfitting themselves, always looking for a new product or inside technique to improve their skills. Key to McCoy’s continued success is that the skills can be enjoyed and honed for a lifetime.

Peacock also sees the tradition and heritage of hunting growing. The store’s typical customer is a male, aged 25–55 years old, who learned to hunt as a child and will continue into their senior years.But teens are visiting the store with increasing frequency and, surprisingly, McCoy’s Facebook friends are mostly females, aged 18 to 30.

“We are seeing more women customers, and we’re happy for it,” says Peacock who has seen a surge in the number of women buying handguns for personal protection. “The women are here not just for gifts. There seems to be growth in the number of women who enjoy hunting and recognize the benefit of the sport. They understand you can fill a freezer for half a year with a quality protein — and not only do you know it’s free of growth hormone and antibiotics, but you have the assurance of a local processor who examined and butchered the meat.”

Customer Jessica Wilson of Southport, Fla., recently bought her first bow from McCoy’s and had it sighted at the store. “Besides the prices being the best, they have the best staff anyone could ask for,” she says.

The store prides itself on its loyal customer base, drawing outdoorsmen from all over the Panhandle area. Customers need to show their driver’s licenses when they purchase weapons, and they are from everywhere — from all over North Florida to South Georgia to South Alabama. “They keep coming back because they realize they have literally stumbled onto something good,” says Peacock. “We pride ourselves on great quality, great prices and the best service in the area.  Regulars are relieved they don’t need to drive to larger destination towns to get their gear.”

The goal is for newcomers to become devoted regulars.

Taking down the competition

Compelling prices and customer loyalty that’s been earned through the years help McCoy’s stay competitive. Gas is offered daily at prices lower than that found on Interstate 10. And the store has always offered layaway, even when bigger stores wouldn’t.

“It is all about service after the sale,” explains owner Tim McCoy. “We enjoy catering to each customer’s needs and wants — going the extra mile when box stores won’t. And of course, price.  We won’t be undersold. That gives us some big advantages over big box stores.”

Customer Colby Smith of Marianna agrees. “I’ve hunted and fished all the surrounding areas. When I go, I always check out the local outdoors shops in the area. No outdoor shop that I have visited has had the variety of items that McCoy’s has to offer, and not one of the shops compares in pricing,” says Smith. “It’s the only place I do my hunting and fishing shopping.”