Huge outside matter for small sporting items retailer

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NEW LONDON, Minnesota — Mom-and-pop shops and sporting goods stores are disappearing from the landscape, but a pop-and-son version plans to stay where it is for a long time to come.

Troy and Jon Haverly, father and son respectively, remain optimistic about the future of their legendary store, Pete’s Surplus. Like anglers who have found a hotspot, they know the importance of location.

“Couldn’t have found a better one,” said Jon Haverly of the store’s location. The store is located near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 9 and US Highway 71 in northern Kandiyohi County. That puts it just one mile from the entrance to Sibley State Park, which ranks in the top 10 in the state park system for its number of campers and day visitors.

Games Lake County Park, one of Kandiyohi County’s most visited popular parks, is also just a few miles down the road.

And there’s plenty of good fishing in Kandiyohi County’s lakes, including Norway, Andrew and Games.

The location just five miles outside of New London and a short drive to Spicer and Green Lake is also a big plus. The area is home to many avid anglers and hunters as well as many seasonal cabin owners.

Being at the center of it all keeps father and son busy, as well as full-time helper Cory Edman and a few part-timers.
Troy’s father-in-law, Marvin Peterson, bought the company in 1981. It had started in 1959 as a gas station and service station selling military surplus goods as Olson’s Surplus. Peterson began offering sporting goods and groceries at the location.

Troy started working with his father-in-law in 1994 and bought the company in 2000. Jon has worked with his father since he was 15 and is also interested in eventually buying it.

Father and son said the formula for keeping a small sporting goods store viable in today’s world of internet sales and big target stores is not really complicated. They offer a wide range of goods and always friendly customer service.

Pete’s Surplus continues to offer surplus military supplies, along with Red Wing and Lacrosse boots, Carhartt apparel, groceries, fishing tackle and bait, hunting and camping gear, ammunition, and snacks and treats, including fresh pastries from the New London Bakery. There’s also self-serve petrol, including a premium non-ethanol fuel pump. Propane is also available.

In other words, Pete’s Surplus stocks just about everything for those who enjoy the great outdoors. The good news is that, according to Jon, there seems to be more of us. He has noticed an increase in the number of customers looking for outdoor items in recent years.

The summer season is the busiest in business, attracting a mix of local shoppers, campers, and seasonal cabin owners visiting the area. Jon said he continues to be amazed at how many people visit Sibley State Park and how they come from so many different points of departure in the state and beyond.

The same applies to the traffic on the two motorways that meet here. Fall can be very busy with hunters stopping by on their trips up Highway 9 into the Dakotas and west, Jon explained.

Father and son love hunting and both are avid trappers. Troy was inducted into the Minnesota Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame in 2014.

Running a retail business can be challenging when it comes to enjoying these side hustles as a father and son duo. By definition, a retail store has to work when other people aren’t, Jon explained.

But nobody wanted it any other way. Both said they enjoy helping people around the store and joking politely with customers, most of whom they know by name.

Troy is aware of the loss of many bait and sporting goods businesses like his. He can point to the street and name the bait shops and resorts that have closed in recent years.

Both attribute their optimism in good part to all of the store’s loyal customers. “We know people can shop anywhere,” Troy said. “But when they come back to you, I hear service and friendliness. Come here and they can touch things.”

The Haverlys said they enjoy the independence of having their own company but never lose sight of the fact that the customers are their bosses. Troy said, “We wouldn’t be here without the people. (We are) not paid by anyone unless we sell something.”

According to Jon and Troy Haverly with Pete’s Surplus in rural New London, Minnesota, there’s a future for small outdoor sporting goods stores, despite competition from big department stores and the internet. Location is important and being in the middle of an area with plenty of camping, hunting and fishing opportunities makes all the difference. Photo of the store near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 9 and US Highway 71 in September 2021. West Central Tribune/Tom Cherveny

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According to Jon and Troy Haverly with Pete’s Surplus in rural New London, Minnesota, there’s a future for small outdoor sporting goods stores, despite competition from big department stores and the internet. Location is important and being in the middle of an area with plenty of camping, hunting and fishing opportunities makes all the difference. Photo of the store near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 9 and US Highway 71 in September 2021. West Central Tribune/Tom Cherveny