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Friday, December 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Barrett's: A look back and a look inside Batavia's oldest outdoor store

That's Mike Barrett pictured at the counter of Barrett's Batavia Marine. His father, the late Dave Barrett, sold me Remington 870 when I was 17. Knowing it was my first shotgun, he threw in a box of shells, #5 pheasant loads. Not long afterward, I purchased my first wild game cookbook. While those are two of my earliest memories of Barrett's, they are far from the first.

Barrett's was founded in 1954 by brothers Dave and Charlie Barrett. At that time, my visits to the west end of the city were either to John Castronova's Redtop for char-broiled Arpeko hot dogs or to Flavorite Farms for ice cream.

Mike Barrett has seen the numerous changes through the years and he easily recalls the wide-open spaces on the west end and the mere handful of businesses in operation then.

Not only are those establishments gone, so too are the wide-open spaces.

Today, despite the crowded surroundings and the fast-paced world around them, Barrett's remains a favorite among the outdoor crowd.

In addition to hunting and fishing gear and outdoor wear, Barrett's is still the place to take an outboard in need of repair, have a gun barrel reblued or have the eyelets on a favorite fishing rod repaired.

As might be expected, members of the sporting community don't always enter the store intent on making a purchase. Oftentimes they simply need input and advice, whether it be hunting and fishing tips, tactics, equipment care or legal aspects of their sport.

And that hasn't changed over the years. I'd be remiss if I failed to mention some of Barrett's employees who provided helpful insight in days gone by -- people like Bob Smith (now City of Batavia Animal Control Officer), Danny Carmichael and the late Paul Levins, each of whom supplied countless people with conscientious service and answers to their questions.  

Above is Jack Taylor, Genesee County Chapter president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education). A 20-year employee with Barrett's, Jack is much like his predecessors at the store -- he's eager to assist customers.

John Lawrence, angler, hunter and former trap-and-skeet All-American, looks over a shotgun he had refinished.

Evidently, he's pleased with the results.

That's Jim Quartley perusing the aisles. He's been frequenting Barrett's since he was old enough to peddle a two-wheeler. Any fishing equipment he purchased in those early years was immediately tested in the waters of Tonawanda Creek.

Warsaw trapper Gary Smith looks over the store's inventory. He said he'll be putting out sets for mink, muskrat and beaver this season.

I've enjoyed a memorable outing or two with this guy in days gone by...He's avid trapper, waterfowler and noted flyfishermen, Ron Wickings.

In addition to his ability as a gunsmith, Mike Barrett is up to date on outdoor policy and changes that affect the outdoorsmen of New York State. Here he briefly reflects on recent issues concerning the outdoor scene. 

A customer checks out the merchandise on the used gun rack...and it brought back memories. I purchased my first rifle from that same rack in the late '60s, a Winchester 225. It was the aforementioned Bob Smith who sighted that gun in for me -- he had it dead-on at 150 yards.

It's a pity that neither of this pair cares to bring a camera afield -- if either one had ever kept a journal of their outdoor exploits it would have made a great sportsmen's anthology.

This painting on Barrett's wall reflects the atmosphere of the store itself, capturing an earlier time, when the covers of outdoor magazines weren't glossy photos, but graced with the work of gifted artists, people who created settings that captured the imagination of young outdoorsmen.

The men who walked into the store on this day -- and others like them -- have spent a good part of their life enjoying such settings, be it cattails or woodlots, field or stream. And their adventures often began with a stop at Barrett's.

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