Business Spotlight: Within Range
The Silers turns former Ozarks racetrack into a sport shooting complex now in its third decade
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 11:55 AM
Dale and Peggy Siler got their start in the firearms business in 1969, when they purchased Ozark Shooters gun store on West College Street.
The 60-acre Ozark Shooters Sports Complex, owned by Dale and Peggy Siler, comprises 400 members and hosts corporate retreats for companies such as Meek's Lumber and Merrill Lynch. More than 100 corporate outings are scheduled this year.
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Ozark Shooters Sports Complex
Owners: Dale and Peggy Siler
Founded: April 1989
Address: 759 U.S. Highway 65, Walnut Shade, MO 65771
Phone: (417) 443-3093
Fax: (417) 443-0811
Services/Products: Sport shooting complex, and new and used gun sales
2011 revenues: $300,000
Twenty years later, the Silers branched out to Walnut Shade, 11 miles north of Branson. They purchased a former racetrack off U.S. Highway 65 and transformed it into a 60-acre shooting complex complete with sporting clays, trap, skeet and two five-stand shooting areas.
Peggy Siler says the couple decided to build the range in Taney County instead of Greene County due to friendlier zoning laws that fit better with their plans. The grounds, having been a racetrack, were already zoned for noise, so Siler says the shooting complex was an easy transition.
For nearly three years, the Silers operated their firearm retail shop and the shooting complex, but a hectic workload led them to close the shop in 1992 and invest all their time into the Walnut Shade complex. They also co-owned Siler’s Shady Acres golf course in southeast Springfield before selling the land in 2001 to make way for development of Eaglesgate subdivision.
“1989 was around the time that Branson was starting to build and boom,” says Peggy Siler, who handles operations and bookkeeping while Dale, a self-described “gofer,” works on the grounds and in gunsmithing. “Everybody has to go by here to get to Branson, so it’s been a good location. A lot of people plan their vacations and look for places to shoot,” Peggy Siler adds.
In addition to its shooting range, Ozark Shooters offers gunsmithing, handgun instruction, concealed carry classes and shooting memberships. It currently has two full-time employees and one manager, along with the Silers.
A shotgun or rifle and pistol membership is $150 for the first year and $125 for each subsequent year. Ozark Shooters is also open to the public seven days a week. Sporting clays cost $25 per 50 or $38 per 100. The five-stand runs $12 per 25 clay pigeons.
Siler says clay target shooting generated roughly 90 percent of the $300,000 revenue recorded last year. Coming off of a year with 7 percent revenues gains compared to 2010, the Silers are budgeting for a 10 percent increase this year.
Six months ago, the Silers began offering lifetime memberships, ranging in price from $500 for current members and $1,000 for new members. Currently, Ozark Shooters has 400 members, including 30 lifetime members.
Dubbed by the Silers as “the shotgunner’s paradise,” Ozark Shooters also hosts corporate outing for clients such as Meek’s Lumber and Merrill Lynch. Peggy Siler says more than 100 corporate outings are booked this year.
The monthly schedule of events at Ozark Shooters boasts 45 events through the end of the year that include competitions for the Missouri State Sporting Clays and the Fiocchi Cup, as well as charity fundraisers for Autism Speaks and Arc of the Ozarks.
Michael Woodring, along with his wife Heather, organized the Shootout for Autism and have held the event at Ozark Shooters for the past seven years. At this year’s event, held June 2, Wooding says the group raised $14,850. During the years, the shoot has garnered more than $60,000 for Autism Speaks, a national autism research and advocacy organization.
“The Silers love to provide their facility for people to have theses types of functions. We’re one of the largest charity shoots that takes place out there,” Woodring says of the event that brought 200 people and 125 shooters. “Everyone has golf tournaments and marathons and bowling tournaments. A sporting clays tournament was a new concept. That’s why we decided to do it.”
When it comes to the challenges of running a shooting range, Peggy Siler says consistent gun safety is first and foremost. Everyone who sets foot on the range, shooters and observers, must wear ear and eye protection, she says.
The shifting economy, Siler says, also can pose difficulties because hobbies such as gun shooting can easily take a back seat.
“It can be an everyday challenge to keep the doors open. Business flourishes some days, and other days it can be nothing,” Siler says. “Our business is not a necessity that somebody has to have.”
Though the Silers are both in their 70s, Dale Siler says they have no plans for retirement or to sell the business. The range is in the middle of its prime months – between March and October – and the Silers say activity is up this year, due in part to the mild winter weather.
The Silers also have gotten into organizing gun shows, such as the July 13–15 show at Our Lady of the Lake Parrish Center in Branson. The 150-table show for new and used gun vendors is Ozark Shooters’ seventh to organize, which entails setup and obtaining the necessary permits.
“We’ve done it three years in a row,” Peggy Siler says. “It’s to the point now where it sells out before it even starts.”