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Located in Linesville, Pennsylvania, Robinson’s Fishing and Hunting serves anglers fishing the popular Pymatuning Lake.
Premier Angler was able to chat recently with Sydney “Sam” Robinson, who has owned the shop since its inception six years ago.
Talking with Sam Robinson, owner of Robinson’s Fishing and Hunting
Premier Angler: On the Robinson Fishing and Hunting Facebook page, you briefly share the story of how the bait shop came about in late 2013. For those who might not be familiar with your shop, can you walk us through its origins?
Robinson: As I said on our Facebook page, the building was supposed to be opened as my husband’s weld shop. Due to an automobile accident in November 2013, he could no longer do that. He was in a neck brace and his left tibia was shattered. I had to figure out a way to bring in income. I was a stay at home mom and wife.
However, I had a background in business. I also grew up as “the son my father never had,” fishing and hunting.
Living on the north end of Pymatuning Lake, having the knowledge that I had about fishing and the lake, and a basic understanding about the business, my shop was born. While we didn’t have a whole lot of choices of bait and tackle that first year, we made up for it with customer service and listening to what the customers wanted. Slowly, we added select inventory and bait according to what they had asked for.
After our second year, our bait supplier suddenly got out of the business. I had the choice to try and find another or become one myself. We now have other bait shops and small wholesalers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York that we deliver bait to. West Virginia will be my next state to get my aquaculture license for. My shop remains open and has evolved into a fully equipped bait and tackle shop.
We also are the first bait shop within roughly 100 miles to have a full line of bait and tackle to target channel and flathead catfish. We look to open a second shop for Conneaut Lake anglers in late spring of this year.
Premier Angler: After being in business for about six years, what would you has been the most difficult aspect of running a bait shop?
Robinson: Not being able to fish — when the fishing is good, we are working 15 hour days.
Premier Angler: Conversely, what has been the greatest reward of running a bait shop?
Robinson: The friends we have made, both in customers and suppliers.
Premier Angler: Is there any information or advice you wish you would have received before going into business?
Robinson: That no matter what you do, you will have bait die. It is a harrowing experience to go out to your tanks and see $3,000 worth of shiners floating for no apparent reason.
Premier Angler: You’ve built a respectable audience on Facebook — over 6,000 followers now. How has social media shaped the way you conduct business over the years?
Robinson: The Facebook page gives me a way to let my customers know the lake conditions, what fish are biting and on what, what is going on with the shop, etc. It also give my customers a way to share their successes with us, when they will be headed our way, and what they would like to see in the shop. We take every post, message, picture, or comment to heart.
Premier Angler: Robinson’s is located on Pymatuning, which is a fairly large lake. Retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods or Wal-Mart are a good drive away. In general, how do you believe big box stores/major retailers affect smaller bait shops, and yours specifically?
Robinson: Honestly, they don’t affect us much. We keep our prices competitive with them, we are a good distance away from any of them, and we provide personal service that they can’t or won’t give.
Premier Angler: As a follow-up, you also mention on your Facebook that Robinson’s offers excellent customer service — definitely something customers won’t get at the bigger shops. Why do you believe great customer service is so important? Aside from proximity to the lake, are there any other benefits you believe smaller bait shops may have over large retail stores?
Robinson: The biggest advantage a local bait shop has is the knowledge of the lake at the current time. A big box store will not know what is biting, where it is biting, and what it is biting on. They also will not take the time to find out. As far as why I think great customer service is key — anyone can get an angler once, but unless you treat that angler well, they won’t come back. Also, treating an angler as you would want to be treated will cause that angler to tell others, and they will tell others, and so on.
Premier Angler: Anything else you would like to share about Robinson’s?
Robinson: We are all about getting kids off of the electronics and outside. With that in my heart, every child that comes in gets special “kids only bait” (rosy red fathead minnows) on us. We make a big deal out of it and the kids and adults, in kind, love it. As I say on all of our fishing reports, “take a kid fishing!”