(Right) Owner Mark McMurray stands outside the Bluff City Outdoors storefront in St. Charles, Mo. (Left) McMurray stands in front of his Freeburg store.
ALTON | The longtime Alton business and hangout for local fishermen has survived some ups and downs the last few years. It has not only survived, it is now growing.
Mark McMurray, owner of Bluff City Tackle in Alton, has captained the ship at Bluff City for nearly 14 years, after its previous owner of 8 years. Anglers from Illinois and Missouri stop into the landmark for supplies on their way out to fish.
“We almost closed our doors last year,” McMurray said.
The increase of online competitors had pulled a great amount of sales away from them.
“But with some internal changes and the need for a local shop, we’ve been able to turn around and even open two additional locations,” he said.
Business has increased with the addition of trapping products that appeal to a broader group of outdoorsmen. Online sales of their mouse trap product have been particularly successful. McMurray decided to rebrand the business as Bluff City Outdoors. With a new look, name and expanded crossover products, he feels they have found their niche.
“We believe that people need a smaller alternative to the Cabela’s-type store, closer to home,” he said. “A place that’s quick and easy to run into for supplies, see familiar faces and celebrate their stories from the area’s rivers and lakes.”
So far, the model has proven to work well for McMurray. He has since opened a store in St. Charles, Mo., and is opening a third location in Freeburg. McMurray specifically chose areas that allow local anglers to easily pull in and park their boat while they run in for bait.
“We have a new bait program that allows a cost savings to our customers and we’re celebrating the addition of the new locations with a companywide grand opening sale in early March,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to service the Alton, St. Charles, Freeburg and surrounding communities for a long time and invite people to come in and meet us.”
Bluff City Outdoors will hold its grand opening March 1-5. All locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will offer discounts on the latest brands and products on the market. Aside from featuring savings and holding drawings for attendance prizes, vendor demonstrations are also being coordinated so anglers can learn about the newest gear. The event will primarily cater to the fishing community, so whether the goal is to fish for crappie, bass or catfish, McMurray commits to fulfilling their recreational needs while supporting the community’s broader outdoor interests.