A look at Riley's, then.
Riley's Sport Shop was established in Hooksett, N.H., in 1953. Richard Riley began as a hobby gunsmith, making custom sporting rifles in his garage before he hung out his shingle as a gunsmith and dealer. The store grew and soon Dick was one of the largest gun dealers in New England.
In the '60s, Dick was elected to the state Senate, where he authored successful legislation that established a muzzleloader-hunting season. He was a prime mover in the gun-rights fight and a plank holder in Gun Owners of New Hampshire.
When the time came for Dick to retire as a gun dealer in 1987, two of his employees purchased Riley's Sport Shop. Ralph Demicco and Bob Parlangeli were a successful team for some 20 years. In July 2006, Ralph bought out Bob's share and became sole owner.
Ralph remembers that when Dick sold them the shop, a cynical industry insider told them, "Well, I think we've seen the best of the gun business, but you guys should have a few good years left." In the course of those few good years, the new owners doubled business.
Riley's now encompasses a second, separately housed police-equipment business on the property, and pays the salary of 15 full-time employees and another half-dozen part-timers.
What advice does Ralph have for a gun dealer who has "big shoes to fill"?
"Change nothing significantly. Making anything different is the kiss of death," he said.
Having worked at Riley's his entire adult life after leaving the Air Force, Ralph found Dick to be a wise mentor in the business.
"Dick always said, 'specialize.' Bob and I listened to him. We deliberately avoided making a big commitment into clothes or archery or products of that kind. We are a gun shop and when we expanded, it was into a broader range of guns and related accessories," Ralph said.
Another Riley's tradition that has been retained is quality. Rather than sell low-quality guns to cover that particular price-point range, the shop took advantage of its burgeoning law-enforcement business to sell trade-in police pistols and revolvers at low prices. Secondhand quality merchandise, Ralph found, creates more satisfied customers and repeat business than "brand-new junk."
Ralph also has continued his mentor's tradition of activism for gun owners' rights. He is heavily involved in Gun Owners of New Hampshire, and speaks frequently and eloquently at the State House to oppose anti-gun legislation. He has built a following of customers who make a point of buying guns and ammo at Riley's, because Riley's goes to bat for them when it counts--and big-box stores don't.