DENNIS TOWNSHIP — Hunting is a lifelong pursuit, so Nick Germanio, owner of Belleplain Supply Co., likes it when parents bring their children into his store.
Just 2 percent of the state’s deer harvest was taken under a youth license, according to state figures.
“Most of my customers are older,” Germanio said. “It’s not like when I was growing up. Most kids are into computers and cell phones and sports leagues.”
The hunting outfitter in Dennis Township’s Belleplain section has been selling rifles, turkey calls and thermal clothing since 1977. It’s a business that Germanio, 58, knows inside and out.
“He loves to go out West,” said his wife and store co-owner, LuAnn. “Nick knows the products because he uses them.”
Germanio said this is the key to his store’s success. Hunters can trust his staff’s recommendations because they know the gear firsthand.
“We’re very customer service oriented,” he said.
Germanio learned to hunt game as a child growing up on his family’s Dennis Township farm, where he lives today. He and his cousins took turns using their grandparents’ shotgun.
“My grandmother would only give me one shell at a time,” he said. “You either brought back game or you didn’t get to shoot next time.”
And he learned to skin and trim game for the dinner table.
“In our family, if you shot it, you ate it,” he said.
After high school, Germanio started a lumber business that also catered to sportsmen. Soon, the hunting side eclipsed wood sales and he devoted all of his attention to firearms.
“They say if you’re going to go into business, do something you like,” he said. “Hunting is one of my favorite pastimes.”
For years, he raised quail, partridge and pheasant to stock his farm fields for private hunting trips.
“That more than anything helped expand my business,” he said. “We were getting hunters from all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
Hunting is a relatively cheap hobby, he said.
“Once you make that initial investment, the biggest expense is time,” he said.
The store is a local dealer for Browning rifles, Germanio’s preferred firearms maker, but carries most international brands. Handguns are especially in demand this year with manufacturers struggling to fill a monthslong backlog, Germanio said.
But the shop is a full-service outfitter, selling everything from hiking boots to camouflage clothing to paintball-infused shooting targets that resemble Osama bin Laden or zombies.
“The paint bleeds out when you hit it,” he said.
The most popular gear lately has been a line of lightweight waterproof clothing from Rivers West. The vests, jackets and coveralls have the feel of fleece but repel all moisture, as a fountain display at the front counter attests.
The store caters to duck and turkey hunters. But it is busiest in the fall when sportsmen get ready for deer season.
Hunters in New Jersey harvested 50,109 deer during last year’s hunting season, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s annual hunting figures. The 2011-12 deer harvest was almost 10 percent lower than the 2010-11 harvest, in part because of stricter regulations and an outbreak of deer disease.
Just 282 deer were taken in Cape May County last season. By comparison, about 2,000 deer were taken in each of Atlantic, Cumberland and Ocean counties.
Germanio said Dennis Township still has some worthy bucks, including several mounts at his store that he and his family have shot right on his farm.
The store’s walls are adorned with trophy mounts taken by Germanio, his employees or his customers: Wyoming pronghorns, Colorado elk and Montana mule deer.
“I do some of my best thinking in a deer stand,” Germanio said. “You need that relaxation.”
Belleplain Supply Co.
Location: 346 Hands Mill Road, Belleplain
Owners: Nick and LuAnn Germanio, of Dennis Township
Employees: 5 to 7
Revenues: Not disclosed
Contact Michael Miller: