My initial response to the news from manager Patrick Movey of Fisherman’s Warehouse that the store was closing its doors in September was an unexpected flood of emotions, from shock to one of concern and loss.
I took a step back. That’s when it occurred to me I was witnessing the end of a legendary angling business that had morphed over time but was still part of the thread of a storied lineage that went back to the 1960s!
I asked myself, “What does this place mean to me and why do I feel like I do about it?” First, we have to go back to the beginning, when Gary Alcorn started out at Hanoian’s Sporting Goods in the Hanoian’s Shopping Center. As a youngster, I remember going into the store in the mid-1960s with my Dad. It was the place that anyone who considered themselves a sportsman hung out. I was awed by the incredible amount of tackle and outdoor equipment, and I would just wander the store endlessly.
The original shop was a place where Gary’s booming voice cut through whatever noise there was in the shop like a knife. His presence, expertise and stories, along with the pure magic of the shop, made it the true sportsmen’s crossroads in Fresno. It was better than Disneyland!
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Later, operations shifted to Ashlan Avenue at what was now called Alcorn’s Sporting Goods. It was a much bigger store, but Gary and wife Marge brought over the same magic. A gathering place for serious anglers, it was common to walk in and find Gary “holding court” with several regulars and talking fishing or hunting. It felt like their store was an extension of their family, and I think that many sportsmen still consider themselves part of it after all these years. I do!
Later, Gary sold the business and it became part of the Fisherman’s Warehouse chain while moving to west Shaw. The new store was still key to many anglers, even though Gary was gone. It fulfilled an important niche for folks who needed expert guidance, a greater variety of lures, and a place to meet other good anglers.
To their credit, the new owners tried to continue as much of the tradition as possible. It took time, but many guys accepted the new store and it became home base. The flavor and thread of the old Alcorn’s remained. It’s always been a place where anglers could go to share their catches, check out the latest stuff, tell fish stories, and rub shoulders with other fanatical anglers. Despite the changes, the place has been a key fishing hub throughout many anglers’ sporting lives.
It’s funny, we live in the middle of an outdoor mecca, yet we continue to have very little in the way of supportive infrastructure for all the rabid sportsmen who live here. I know that the drought has affected all fishing-related industries, as have online sales, but compared to other regions we are a virtual wasteland of local fishing services. And now we are losing a key player that I didn’t think we could afford to lose – and that many anglers have relied on for a long time.
I believe that we should have had a Bass Pro Shop here long ago, as well as our own International Sportsmen’s Expo for starters. But for many reasons, we can’t attract what we need. My gut observation is that the Valley seems to be made up of a whole bunch of fragmented interests, independently going their own way.
I will miss the store and its people. I’m saddened that the thread of a special legacy and its magic, which began long ago, is reaching the end of its lifespan. It’s one that’s fueled the dreams of many Valley anglers. I personally feel like I’m losing a good friend! Never give up.