VINELAND — Shire Hardware & Sports started out with neither hardware nor sports.
Then called Shire Products, the business grew out of a basement as a direct marketer to the farming and nursery industries.
“The whole thrust was to supply them with consumables, rain suits, boots, rubber gloves, knives, files — anything someone working with the farming industry would use,” said Paul Shropshire, of Vineland, who owns the business with his wife, Beverly. “Then it got bigger and bigger.”
But then came the first of several dramatic shifts, the owners said, as they were finding fewer farmers to market and sell to.
Enter the hardware.
“The transition to the hardware was natural because of the knives, the files, the hardware-related items (we sold),” Shropshire said.
Then came the sports.
The couple has two children who played sports.
“When roller hockey was popular we couldn’t find anything in the area that did roller hockey, so we got into sports. As they got into sports and we saw there was a gap in things, we would jump into it,” he said. “Paintball has always been one of our No. 1 things we got into. Airsoft is big now.”
Shropshire, 57, said the business now has been working to find niches in sporting goods and hardware, competitive industries where major box retailers have strong footholds locally and nationally.
Business analytic company Hoovers said large sporting goods chains have the advantage of stocking wide varieties of goods, while smaller companies and retailers can compete with deeper product lines in specialized sports, experienced staff, repair services and serving local markets.
Shropshire, who is also a battalion chief for the Atlantic City Fire Department, said serving these areas have become a major focus of the business.
Apart from its hardware store offerings (the business sells nuts and bolts by the pound) as well as sporting goods selections, the business has also been focusing on some specialty products, Shropshire said.
These include White’s Metal Detectors, which Shropshire said have been gaining popularity since the reality TV show “American Diggers.”
The business also has been selling whole-house generators, which can power an entire residence during an electrical outage.
Bicycle repairs, paintball gun repairs and service-related specialties and offerings represent one of the store’s greatest advantages, he said.
“What hurts any small place is the big box stores, the Dicks Sporting Goods, the Lowe’s, the Home Depots — that’s why you have to get hopefully known, and that’s what our struggle is constantly.”
“We’re looking for service items that other people don’t do and that the consumer needs,” he said. “And that’s everybody’s challenge.”
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Shire Hardware & Sports
Location: 389 S. Lincoln Ave., Vineland
Owners: Paul and Beverly Shropshire, of Vineland