NEW LONDON, Minn. — Mom and pop bait and sporting goods stores are disappearing from the landscape, but a pop-and-son version plans to stay right where it is for a long time to come.
Troy and Jon Haverly, father and son, respectively, remain optimistic about the future of their iconic store, Pete’s Surplus. Like anglers who have found a hot spot, they know the importance of location.
“Couldn’t have picked a better one,” said Jon Haverly of the store’s location. The store is located near the crossroads of Minnesota Highway 9 and U.S. Highway 71 in northern Kandiyohi County. That puts it just a mile from the entrance to Sibley State Park, which ranks among the top 10 in the state park system for its numbers of campers and day visitors.
Games Lake County Park, one of the most visited of Kandiyohi County’s popular parks, is located just a few miles down the road as well.
And, there’s lots of good fishing to be found in Kandiyohi County lakes including Norway, Andrew and Games.
Being located just five miles outside of New London and a short drive from Spicer and Green Lake is a big plus as well. The area is home to many avid anglers and hunters, as well as many seasonal cabin owners.
Being in the heart of all this keeps father and son plenty busy, as well as full-time helper Cory Edman and a couple of part-time workers as well.
Troy’s father-in-law, Marvin Peterson, purchased the business in 1981. It had started in 1959 as a gas and service station with military surplus goods as Olson’s Surplus. Peterson began offering sporting goods and groceries at the location.
Troy started working with his father-in-law in 1994 and purchased the business in 2000. Jon has been working alongside his father since he was 15. He returned to the store after completing college and now, on the verge of turning 30, is interested in someday purchasing it as well.
Father and son said the formula for keeping a small sporting goods business viable in today’s world of internet sales and big destination stores is not really complicated. They offer a wide variety of goods, and always, friendly customer service.
Pete’s Surplus continues to feature surplus military goods, along with Red Wing and Lacrosse boots, Carhartt apparel, groceries, fishing tackle and bait, hunting and camping gear, ammunition, and snacks and treats, including fresh pastries from the New London Bakery. There’s also self-service gasoline including a premium, non-ethanol fuel pump. Propane is available too.
In other words, Pete’s Surplus carries just about everything for those who enjoy the outdoors. The good news is that there seems to be more of us, according to Jon. He’s noticed an uptick in recent years in the numbers of customers looking for outdoor items.
The summer season is the busiest at the store, and it attracts a mix of local customers, campers and seasonal cabin owners visiting the area. Jon said he continues to be impressed by how many people visit Sibley State Park, and how they come from so many different starting points in the state and beyond.
Something of the same can be said for the traffic carried on the two highways meeting here. Autumn can be very busy with hunters dropping in on their trips on Highway 9 to the Dakotas and points west, Jon explained.
Father and son love to hunt and both are avid trapshooters. Troy was inducted into the Minnesota Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame in 2014.
Operating a retail store can be a challenge when it comes to enjoying those outside pursuits as a father-and-son duo. By definition, a retail business requires working when other people are not, Jon explained.
Yet neither would have it any other way. Both said they enjoy helping people in the store and the friendly banter with customers, most of whom they know by name.
Troy is well aware of the loss of many bait and sporting goods stores like his. He can point down the road and name the bait shops and resorts closed in recent years.
They both credit their optimism in good part to all of the store’s loyal customers. “We know that people can buy from anyplace,” said Troy. “But when they come back to you, what I hear is service and friendliness. Come here and they can touch stuff.”
The Haverlys said they enjoy the independence of operating their own business, but never lose sight of the fact that the customers are their bosses. Said Troy: “If it weren’t for the people, we wouldn’t be here. (We’re) not paid by anybody unless we sell something.”