February 12, 2020
Behind the Firing Line: RTSP
|Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to recognize ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence and to explain how these ranges met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.|
|—Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Retail and Range Business Development|
RTSP, Union, New Jersey
This range and retailer is located eight miles from the midtown Manhattan Holland Tunnel entrance on New Jersey’s U.S. Highway Route 22. The company operates its first range in Randolph, in central-northern New Jersey, while the newer Union location opened in early December 2018. The newly constructed range encompasses more than 35,000 square feet. A 9,000-square-foot retail store carries an inventory of over 750 firearms, with an additional stock of about 150 rentals.
RTSP has four indoor ranges with a total of 40 ports over a mix of 25- and 50-yard lanes. All use electronic retrieval system targets, and caliber use is limited to .308 and smaller.
In addition to a large customer waiting area, office spaces, a conference room and classrooms, clients have a full-service café and VIP lounge sporting more than 1,000 square feet.
Annual memberships start at $200-$400 for handgun only. Handgun and rifle combination memberships span from $275-$475. VIP members have a $2,000 initiation fee, with a $1,500 annual renewal rate. All memberships receive discounts on rentals and training classes, as well as free lane reservations. Lane rental walk-in pricing for non-members starts are $20 per hour for handguns and $25 per hour for rifles. For an additional $10, a second shooter in the same lane can be added. Handgun rental prices start at $15 per gun per hour, while rifles are $25 per hourly session. Guests are required to purchase ammo at RTSP.
The facility employs a growing staff of 60 full- and part-time employees. Within the next six months, it plans to add another 20. RTSP operates seven days a week: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. On weekdays, members are allowed early entry beginning at 8:00 a.m.
As a new NSSF Five-Star range, the facility meets best practices standards for its state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers.
We interviewed Fred “Rick” Freidman, CEO and co-owner for this column, who detailed how this company opened a new facility in one of the most gun-restrictive metropolitan areas in the country.
Opening at the Right Time and Place
Opening a shooting range anywhere is challenging enough. But planning a new facility in the shadow of Manhattan and in one of the most restrictive firearms states in America is something that would overwhelm many shooting sports business professionals. In the case of Rick Freidman, though, his experience with his company’s first range in New Jersey’s Morris County conferred the insight and moxie to build a range in Union, New Jersey, less than 10 miles from New York City.
“Running a range in northern Jersey bestowed several advantages. Perspective was the greatest. We had a positive experience with our first range, and we were able to overcome the township’s questions and concerns. With several years under our belt, our local law enforcement and township staff found our facility a positive business that significantly contributed to the local economy. Supplying an average of 70 jobs helped to dispel the frightening gun narrative,” Freidman said.
Waiting for Location, Location, Location
Freidman had always felt expansion was a numbers game. With more than nine million people crammed into the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, he knew that if the right real estate became available it would be well worth the struggle to get the permits and open a shooting facility. The key was where.
U.S. Highway Route 22 is the oldest east/west highway in the state. More than 95,000 cars daily pass by the area’s bowling alley and diner remnants from the ’50s and ’60s. Freidman realized changing buying habits were greatly affecting these highway retailers.
“So many of these stores are closing and offering up some prime real estate. What was happening in Union was no different,” he said. “And unlike traffic on the Interstate, with U.S. 22 customers could pull in with a right-hand turn, not after a two-mile-long exit,” said Freidman.
Dressed to Impress
Once a site in Union was decided on, tackling the town itself was next.
“Imagine my presentation to a 100-percent Democratic town council to build a shooting range in their town,” he said. The council members listened to a 45-minute presentation, and with Friedman’s extensive experience backing the company and a stellar reputation in northern Jersey, the Union council accepted RTSP’s proposal and issued all the appropriate permits. One Council member commented, “This is what we all want, responsible use of firearms and training.”
Freidman commented that even the new landlord was excited.
“Most retailers put up a few walls, paint the place and hang a few lights. We were investing more than $6 million in a building that would stand the test of time. Our landlord knew we would be around for a while. He loved the capital improvements we made to his property,” said Freidman.
The careful planning and financial investment paid off. While it did take three years to go from lease to opening, in its first month of business RTSP realized it already needed more staff: An average of 30 cars in the parking lot at any given time was keeping the doors swinging open to close.
Checking Attitude at the Door
One of the fundamental goals of this new range is to convert local curiosity seekers into shooters. It’s done with a clear message: “No Crabbiness.”
“Our employees are here to listen, teach and be supportive. We really want women shooters. We see them as an opportunity for our greatest growth potential. We want to help them enjoy themselves. Specifically, we want to remove the fear of firearms use. We offer tried and true safety training, and we never speak down to the client, ever,” he said.
Embracing Client Diversity
I interviewed Friedman just after the Union location’s first week in business. He said one of the clear successes he’s proudest of is that every time he steps on the main floor he sees extraordinary client diversity. The clientele has ranged in nationality, and slightly more than half are women. Freidman projects this facility will be walk-in customer-based as opposed to the more exclusive club atmosphere of his other range.
“This is where we turn the tide. We are teaching people who have never had access to our sport. Through our range, they are beginning to see the value in our industry. This translates to their personal safety while adding a dose of fun,” Freidman said.
Vision is something that can’t be ordered on a business menu. If you have the experience and forethought, it is possible to find the right place, at the right time, even when many may not expect a welcome invitation. Location does matter. As does a clear plan for a Five-Star range that embraces education and training. By listening to and overcoming the undercurrents of the opposition and building a coalition of understanding within its community, this range and retailer is thriving.