Linda Waali and Chris Dever say it was passionpassion for America, U.S. military history, and gunsthat brought them from the Seattle area to Spokane about 1 1/2 years ago to invest everything they had in a retail venture.
The two women, ages 38 and 42, respectively, cashed in their retirement savings and sold a number of their valuables to open Red White & Blued Firearms & Military History, in a retail strip at 2128 N. Pines, just north of the Pines-Interstate 90 interchange in Spokane Valley.
Waali says, Rumor has it that if you follow your dream
the money will come, Dever says, finishing Waalis sentence for her.
Incorporated as Red White & Blued LLC, the store carries an assortment of new and used rifles, pistols, and knives. In addition, it has an extensive collection of new and used books, documentaries, and movies about U.S. history and war, as well as military coins, flags, and other memorabilia.
It seemed to make sense to us that the military history and guns go together, Waali says.
In the stores name, the word blued alludes both to the field color in the U.S. flag and to a protective coating process used on a guns steel barrel that gives the steel a dark blue color.
At Red White & Blued, the guns line one wall and fill a display case. Dever says about two-thirds of the rifles are new and a third are used. A greater percentage of the pistols are new, she says.
The used-gun selection ranges from a first-generation Colt .45-caliber revolverat $2,800, by far the most expensive gun in the storeto a Nagant 1895 model pistol, which once was carried by police officers.
The shop has some makes of rifles and pistols with manufacture dates that suggest they could have been used in a particular war. For example, U.S. soldiers carried 1903 Springfield rifles during the World War I, Waali says, and the store has one that was manufactured in the late 1910s. Also, the Hungarian Army used the Steyr M95 rifle during World War I, and the shop has one manufactured in that same timeframe.
Waali says she and Dever dont have any proof that such guns were used in war, so they dont make any claims along those lines.
Waali always has one gun as a project to partially rebuild and customize. Most recently, she says, she tricked out an SKS semi-automatic rifle, which since has sold. When customizing a gun, she says she doesnt mess with the shooting mechanism because shes not trained as a gunsmith, but will replace other parts, including a magazine, a handle, a hand guard, and optics, among others. She says that if the stores sales grow, shell consider going to gunsmithing school.
The new guns carried at Red White & Blued include, among others, those made by Henry Repeating Arms Co., a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based gun manufacturer that makes lever-action and pump-action rifles and other guns in historical gun styles.
Waali says the Henry firearms are popular with people involved in cowboy-action shooting clubs.
Books, movies, and documentaries line two walls of the shop and include an assortment of new and used items related to the military, U.S. history, world history, and governmental issues.
Dever says the sale of knives and swords has outpaced gun sales and book-and-DVD sales so far. The company carries a line of products made by Columbia River Knife & Tool, of Wilsonville, Ore., which are proving to be popular.
Dever estimates that knife-and-sword sales account for about 40 percent of the stores overall revenues, and gun sales account for about 30 percent. Books, movies, and miscellaneous items account for the balance of its sales.
Waali declines to disclose annual revenues, but says the company isnt profitable yet. Upon opening, they had projected that it would take at least two years to reach the point that it would operate in the black.
She says the companys niche involves items that typically cant be found at chain stores.
We try to carry books that youre not going to find at Barnes & Noble, Waali says. Going head to head with Sportsmans Warehouse would be business suicide.
For Waali and Dever, family history in many instances parallels U.S. history.
Each of the two women says a relative fought in every major U.S. war or conflict since the Revolutionary War. Both tried to go into the military themselves, and both were rejected. Waali, who previously worked in the anti-piracy department at Microsoft Corp., says she was turned down in the late 1980s because shes flat-footed and nearsighted, when the U.S. Armed Forces were more selective about who entered the military. Dever, a former police dispatcher, was turned down because of her asthma.
Some of the more eye-catching items in the store arent for sale, such as a U.S. Air Force uniform that Waalis father, a Vietnam veteran, wore. A Civil War union soldiers uniform fitted on a mannequin in one corner is a replica, but the rest are actual uniforms lent to the store by their friends and family.
Also, a display near the front door includes a number of items from relatives times in the service. They include dog tags and a weekend pass that Waalis grandfather received while serving in World War II, a German hymnbook he picked up while over there, and a picture of Devers dad and the flag the military gave her mother after he died, years after his service.
Im red, white, and blue from here to here, says Dever, pointing to the top of her head then to her feet as she talks.
Contact Linn Parish at (509) 344-1266 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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