When John and Shirley Hagan first opened Portland’s Northwest Flyfishing in May of 1993, Czechoslovakia was dissolving, Rodney King was testifying, and the Second Coming of the Spey rod was still a decade away. But 17 years later, the Hagens still offer the quality products and service that East Side Portlanders have come to expect.
“We’ve got catchable steelhead here 365 days a year,” says Jack Hagen, who spent ten years in management for Northwest big box retailer Fred Meyer before taking over the shop from his folks. “So that’s a pretty big draw for our customers.”
It is this12-month presence of hard-fighting fish on rivers like the Clackamas, Sandy and—just a couple hours away—the Deschutes, that helps Northwest Flyfishing Outfitters (flyshopnw.com) avoid some of the seasonal slowdowns that can hamper Rockies-based shops come winter.
I asked Hagen how last May’s closing of 31 GI Joes stores—a big box retailer and Northwest icon—affected sales in their shop.
“It was a mixed bag,” he says. “When Joe’s was closing, it was bargain city in their stores. So when those customers came in here afterwards we had to do some CPR—they were paying us as much for fly line as they’d paid Joe’s for their rod and reel combo.”
Hagen’s shop carries all the top brands you’d expect—Simms, Sage, Winston, G. Loomis. They also host a large number of workshops and spey-casting clinics to help bring in new customers and increase revenue when the hard good aren’t moving as fast.
And to what does Hagen credit for a big chunk of their income during the Great Recession? “Twenty-somethings,” he says, nodding toward a guy in the store who looked to fit the demographic. “They weren’t as hurt, financially. They didn’t lose much because they didn’t have much.”
Lucky for Hagen and other shops that have wisely chosen not to ignore customers under 30, what money these guys DO have, they like spending on fishing gear.
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.