December 2, 2020
Behind the Firing Line: Reloaderz NJ
Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” features ranges working through the coronavirus pandemic’s social and legal challenges, including the effects of the 2020 election. We intend to show how companies demonstrate best industry practices while still offering services when appropriate and allowed by law. For more information on NSSF’s Range Program, visit www.nssf.org. —Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Retail & Range Business Development
A Welcoming Community in an Anti-Gun State
Our recent interview took place with Cheryl Nylen, CEO of Reloaderz NJ, located in the decidedly un-gun-friendly state of New Jersey. Only the third NSSF Five-Star Range in New Jersey, Reloaderz NJ is the first woman-owned shooting range in the State of New Jersey.
The NSSF Five-Star facility, located in the town of Wayne and less than 30 miles from New York City, includes a 15-lane, 25-yard, climate-controlled indoor range designed to exceed all NSSF EPA, OSHA, NIOSH and NRA guidelines. The range features the latest in sports-shooting technology, with an AWD PRO targeting system from Action Target from which guests may choose nearly 30 different training scenarios. It employs a staff of 18 full and part-time employees and operates seven days a week.
Reloaderz NJ was the idea of Nylen’s son Michael, who is also the company’s COO. The family had extensive business experience in manufacturing and marketing plastics but not the firearm industry when they decided a range was in their future.
“We had little background in the shooting sports and had never thought about this kind of business. It didn’t take long before Michael’s idea bore out the high potential for local demand and a community that would accept us.”
While planning and constructing a multimillion-dollar facility was a challenge, the local community’s approval was not. “Our experience with the township and county was surprisingly smooth. We had unanimous approvals for our license and operational permits. They were supportive and encouraging,” said Nylen.
Pre-planning assistance came from a long list of organizations, including NSSF. “One of our greatest steps forward was when we attended SHOT UniversityTM. It gave us the understanding to proceed and of the standards required. That event also introduced us to consultants and range manufacturers that played a vital role in our construction and design,” she said.
Nylen also found benefits in visiting other facilities during the planning process. “It was invaluable to experience other ranges throughout the U.S. While it certainly revealed some of the designs we wanted to incorporate, possibly more importantly, it showed us what didn’t suit our market and needs. We learned that our range needed to be as welcoming as possible—we didn’t want a tactical feel,” she said.
Attracting the First-Timer
COVID-19 created challenges for every business. In the case of Reloaderz NJ, however, it accentuated the company’s goals.
“From day one, our target audience was the new and younger shooter. Attracting first-time enthusiasts and Millennials is a delicate process keyed by two things: a genuinely friendly environment and a place that must be extraordinarily clean. When someone comes in, they are greeted at the concierge desk with a warm and friendly tone. Our personnel are sensitive to the slightest uncomfortable behavior, and they are trained to ease a customer’s fear. We are inviting, friendly and reassuring. If we can get a customer to walk in the door, we can get them on the range. Our training and range staff takes it to an even higher level,” she said.
Reloaderz NJ feels the range’s cleanliness sets a standard that speaks volumes to a new shooter. “The facility has to be immaculate. It demonstrates our professionalism and assures the customer that they have made a sound, safe choice. With the pandemic, it’s even more of a factor in gaining a new customer’s confidence,” she said.
Mining for Product
As a recent entrant to the shooting sports, maintaining firearms and ammunition in the current climate requires out-of-the-box thinking. “We are just starting relationships with distributors and manufacturers. We have accrued few allocations, so we’ve had to look at other resources to keep inventory on the floor and the shelves,” said Nylen, adding that they had gone as far as driving trucks a thousand miles to obtain firearms and .223 and 9mm ammo.
While acquiring ammo has been incredibly challenging for this New Jersey dealer, some manufacturers have kept it well supplied. “SIG has made the difference for us, contributing greatly to keeping product on our shelves,” she said. In some cases, stocking a product has meant paying a higher price. Realoderz NJ has taken care to educate its customers about the reasons behind the higher prices, emphasizing that the elevated prices will fall when the acquisition costs drop. “We will politely respond to a customer who compares our higher price on their phone, explaining it is tied to availability. It can be an issue, but most of our customers understand that our commitment to them will be there long after an online purchase is completed,” she said.
In Touch with the Community
One of Nylen’s starkest comments during our interview was about the impact of the pandemic and civil strife on the New Jersey and New York City region. “Our community’s residents feel the need to protect themselves,” she said. “We are ten-fold busier than this time last year, and our walk-in traffic continues to rise.” Nylen also noted that her company had cut its Google ad placements drastically, instead concentrating on its social-media presence. “We have been able to capitalize on word of mouth without advertising. We may go back to Google, but at this point, we are growing and don’t need the expenditure,” she said.
Nylen said she was proud of her community’s commitment to firearm rights, training and welcoming high numbers of new shooters. She said, “We want them to feel comfortable in every step of the process. The greatest compliment they can give us is that we are friendly and knowledgeable and that they notice that our place is sparkling clean. If we’ve accomplished these three things, we will stay busy.”
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