Jeff Green | May 08, 2014
“In order to survive in business in this area you have to do more than none thing,” said Don Yearwood, who opened the Bishop Lake Trailer Park in 1986 with his wife Helen. At the time their only employee was their son Bob, who had to take work outside the region in the wintertime. The business grew over the next ten years, with the addition of a motel and more services,
15 years ago this weekend, on the first day of Walleye season in 1999, BL Outdoor Centre opened. It was the biggest single change to the business and is being celebrated this weekend.
When interviewed about the store 5 years ago on the 10th anniversary, Bob Yearwood said that the business had been growing each year as new services were added and seasonal and permanent residents realized the prices were competitive and the service level was infinitely superior to what is on offered at box stored in urban centres.
That trend has continued.
BL Outdoor Centre carries a full range of hunting and fishing gear, as well as hiking and camping equipment in addition to operating a laundromat and supplying propane.
“The biggest growth in the last five years has been in the woman’s market,” Bob Yearwod said last week, “women have taken to hunting and fishing like never before and we stock more and more products that are geared toward women.”
BL Outdoor Centre is always expanding its product lines, including Browning Firearms and accessories, Hoyt bows, Danner and Lacrosse boots, and aline of moccasins from Quebec.
“But as I said, what separates is the service we offer. If you buy a rifle or a crossbow and there is a problem with it, we can wither adjust it here or we wil send it to the manufacturer and make sure our customers are satisfied. You can't get that elsewhere,” he said.
BL Outdoor is also involved in marketing and selling through Facebook, an new innovation this year.
“We need to keep looking at new products, new markets and new services,” said Yearwood.
BL Outdoors and Bishop Lake Campgrounds, which employed one part-time person in 1986, now keeps Don and Helen Yearwood, as well as Bob and Allison, and Dennis (last name) working year-round, in addition to seasonal employees in the summer.
And now, even though the campground, which has been fully subscribed for a number of years, is only open in the summer, the store is so well established for year-round outdoor sports that as much business comes in during the shoulder seasons from September 15 to June 15 as it does in the prime summer season.
While the tourists and seasonal population have come to rely on BL Outdoors, the support of local hunters and fishers has been crucial to the stores success, and as the store celebrates its anniversary this weekend, it is the local community that the Yearwoods are thinking of.
“When we had our ten year celebration, we offered propane at $10 for a 20 lb tank. As everyone knows the price of propane is not what it was 5 years ago, but this weekend we will be selling it at $15 for 20lb. We are also putting some special sales in place.