A fateful day in 2012 for brothers Brad and Jason Williams established a professional path that led to a multimillion-dollar e-commerce business and, earlier this year, the opening of Midwest Archery.
The Williams brothers, along with father Greg, opened their first brick-and-mortar archery store on July 16, 2018, at 4725 N. State Highway 13, the longtime home of Carpet Barn. The Willamses purchased the property in July 2017 for an undisclosed price and invested $100,000 to renovate the 5,500-square-foot retail space over the next year.
“We always knew we wanted to do this eventually,” Jason Williams says of opening a physical location after six years selling on eBay and Amazon as Williams Outdoors LLC.
Brad says the shop caters to bow hunters and fishermen, featuring crossbows and hunting accessories, such as tree stands, backpacks, clothing and night vision cameras. Bows and crossbows are priced between $250 and $2,700. The store also includes space for a shop for stringing bows and repairs and a 10-lane archery range.
“We’ve hunted our whole lives, so this is our passion,” Jason says.
But if it wasn’t for Feb. 12, 2012, the Williams family might have never become business owners.
“Brad and I got laid off from our jobs on the exact same day,” Jason says of Feb. 12, 2012.
He was working for FedEx, and Brad was with Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc. The brothers and their dad separately had been selling hunting and fishing products on the side for nearly six years prior to 2012.
But the sudden change to the unemployment line resulted in the three combining their $40,000 in inventory and deciding to make a go as an e-commerce business.
“It wasn’t just going to be a hobby anymore,” Jason says. “We were going to try and make a business out of it full-time.”
The Williamses got connected with a bow company, Tucson, Arizona-based PSE Archery Inc., and started buying all its closeouts to sell through Williams Outdoors’ online channels.
The first year of e-commerce sales came in around $63,000, Brad says.
The Williams family accumulated additional suppliers as their name became better known.
Jared Miller, a customer sales representative with PSE Archery, says he’s personally handled the Williams family orders since 2014. He primarily deals with Brad, supplying the company about every two weeks with compound bows, crossbows, slings, sights and other archery accessories. He recently shipped a smaller order of 15 compound bows valued at $4,000.
“They have the inventory space now to hold all those orders,” Miller says.
Declining to disclose the annual amount of business PSE Archery does with the Williamses, Miller says he expects the volume will grow as the brick-and-mortar store becomes more established.
Sales at Midwest Archery and in the family’s e-commerce business topped $5 million in 2017, and they estimate 2018 company revenue will finalize above $5.5 million.
The property acquisition in north Springfield included 9,500 square feet of warehouse space for its hunting-related inventory, which Brad says is valued at roughly $1 million.
The family accrued enough inventory to initially rent out a 3,000-square-foot warehouse at Chestnut and Kansas expressways, but filled the space within about two years.
“That’s why we’re here,” Brad says of the new store.
E-commerce sales currently comprise about 80 percent of the company’s sales – a variance Greg expects will even out with the storefront open.
“However, our main business is always going to be e-commerce,” he says.
Buying the barn
The Carpet Barn building was on the family’s radar for some time, Greg says. They were rebuffed by the Kansas-based owners a couple of times before the property was put up for sale.
“But when they did put it up for sale, they contacted us and we put a bid in on it,” he says. “This one opened up for us at the right time.”
Carpet Barn, which sold carpeting and performed installation, had operated for 43 years in Springfield before shuttering in 2017, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. It was known for its red barn-like building that was topped with a donkey character named Barney.
Greg says the Carpet Barn “mascot” is now part of Midwest Archery, but Barney wasn’t part of the property sale in 2017. Instead, he was purchased for $800 at Carpet Barn’s liquidation auction. Greg admits they overspent, but he says Barney’s worth the attention.
“We have some people that just pull off the road to take a photo of him and then drive away,” he says.
“We’re excited for the future. We wanted something we would want to walk in and see that you just don’t find anywhere – unless it’s Bass Pro,” Jason says with a laugh.
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