Nov. 20—Bill Roney has been thinking about the Spirit of '76.
The Second Amendment, after all, plays a central role in his life as owner of the Outdoorsman of Santa Fe, the gun shop in DeVargas Center mall that he has operated since 1990. Before that, Roney for about 15 years owned the Buffalo Hunter, another Santa Fe gun shop. Now, he is retiring.
"It just wasn't the time before," he said. "I would like to characterize this as the Spirit of '76. I just turned 76. I now have a couple grandchildren I want to spend time with. My brother is in failing health and I want to spend time with him. My wife has been so supportive of me. I want to spend time with her."
As of Sept. 11, the Outdoorsman is listed for sale with Sam Goldenberg & Associates at a listed price of $475,000. That includes the business, the $200,000 inventory of guns and a 50,000-customer database.
"If someone comes in today, fine," Roney said. "If someone comes in six months from now, fine. While I'm still young enough, vigorous enough and healthy enough, I want to find a successor. I would like to see the business continue. I don't want to do a going-out-of-business sale."
The Outdoorsman has been all things for all gun folks: hunters, those seeking home protection, target shooters, competitive shooters, collectors of historic guns, tactical gun enthusiasts and people keen on black-powder guns.
"In addition to an array of firearms, we buy, we sell, we consign, we appraise," Roney said. "We are an old-style traditional firearms store that caters to families."
Back in the early days, Roney remembers parents coming in with their children, and the family would go out hunting.
"Hunting was more significant than it is now," Roney said. "Parents, mother and father, came in with the kids. It was almost a rite of passage. It was part of the culture.
"As time passed and New Mexico installed hunts by draw, it wasn't just going out to hunt anymore. Hunting is viewed by some as wrong."
These days, more people buy guns for self or home defense, though the traditional hunting base remains strong.
"As Santa Fe has grown and crime has grown exponentially and the average age has grown, there is more emphasis on personal protection now," he said.
Across 50 years, Roney has watched the gun industry evolve yet always remain firm, bolstered by the Second Amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms.
"I think it's changed dramatically. As federal restrictions have become," he paused briefly, seeking a word, "stricter and more restrictive. There's so much attention now on trying to guarantee that firearms are in the hands of responsible individuals. Dealers are required to do background checks, and keeping records of backgrounds checks has become almost onerous. It takes a huge amount of space to keep records of sales. I have 30 years of records."
Even with his father working for Remington Arms in Bridgeport, Conn., Roney had zero sense he would be a gun shop owner when he graduated from college.
Roney said he was one of the first five people in the Prudential Financial management training program. Within a couple of years, the prospects of a corporate life waned for him.
"I asked my father to introduce me to people in the sporting goods industry," Roney said, not seeking to follow Dad to Remington. "He suggested I interview with Remington."
Remington assigned him to Amarillo, Texas. He put on a show in Lubbock, and two guys from Santa Fe got to talking to him about a gun store for sale on Sandoval Street. Roney, a friend from Amarillo and the two Santa Feans bought the Buffalo Hunter in 1973.
"Eventually, the other people just went away," Roney said.
He moved the Buffalo Hunter to Cerrillos Road in 1985 because he could open an indoor firing range alongside the gun store. A couple years later, two men proposed the idea of building a larger gun store and larger firing range and that they partner in owning the Buffalo Hunter and the property at 509 Airport Road. Until then, Roney had leased space.
Roney described his end at the Buffalo Hunter in 1989 after only 11/2 years on Airport Road as a "hostile takeover" by his partners. He was out of the retail firearms business and worked for a year for the optical firm Zeiss.
A few friends approached him about opening another gun store, which lead to the Outdoorsman of Santa Fe, originally in the former space of a Zales jewelry store at the Coronado Center on Cordova Road in 1990.
The Coronado Center ownership in 1994 suggested he relocate into the former Coronado Twin movie theater space that had been vacant since 1990. That enabled Roney to open his third shooting range.
Eventually, he became a sole proprietor again. By 1999, the shooting range no longer made sense.
"It wasn't cost effective," Roney said. "You need about 100-by-30 feet, 3,000 square feet, at close to $20 per square foot. People were in the mind, 'Why should I pay $5 when I can go out of town a bit to shoot for free?' "
DeVargas Center approached him. He accepted the offer and has expanded his space twice in the 23 years since. But the shooting range remains a part of his 20th century past. He saw no logic in opening a range at a separate location.
"To operate a range without a store doesn't make any sense," Roney said. "This is nice to focus on one activity. If I were 40 or 50, I would absolutely consider relocating the store to my own piece of property and I would have a shooting range."
Instead, he is looking for the ideal buyer for the Oudoorsman of Santa Fe.