*We are going live on Instagram with Grant and St. Petes on Wednesday, June 9th at 4:30 PM MST.*
Introducing the Staying Afloat Series, where we take an inside look into the lives of many different fly fishing guides, shops, brands, and lodges across the world in hopes of finding out how the COVID is affecting them, what they are doing to help, and how we can do our part to help them. In this feature, we caught up with Grant Houx (pictured below) owner and operator of St. Petes Fly Shop in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Flylords: Tell us about St. Peters Fly Shop?
Grant: St. Peter’s Fly Shop is located in Fort Collins, Colorado of which we have 2 locations on each end of town. The Old Town location was opened in 1992 and resides in an 1890’s Victorian Historic home. After guiding and working for the shop through college and a few years after, my family purchased the shop in 2007. In 2012 we opened our second location on the south side of town and in 2015 we moved it from a shopping center to a historic home to follow the them of the Old Town location. Our shops rely on the tourism business as well as an extremely supportive local community of anglers.
We’re a full-service fly shop that offers retail sales, online business, guide service, classes and destination travel. Being located in Northern Colorado gives us access to lots of amazing waters for us to guide on. Our local waters are the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson rivers. We also guide in Rocky Mountain National Park as well as do float trips on the North Platte River (Saratoga area, Grey Reef and Miracle Mile stretches). We provide a plethora of classes from Introduction to Fly Fishing, to a Guide School, to Spey Schools. Our Destination Travel business consists of both as a booking agent service as well as hosted travel.
Flylords: How has the COVID outbreak impacted your business?
Grant: Pretty much in every way possible! We were shut down in the beginning having to resort in closing our doors for a few weeks. We luckily have a relatively developed website, so we put all of our energy into adding products and polishing the online storefront. At that point we were shipping products and delivering them around town. Once the “stay at home” order was lifted we went back to curbside pick up. Over this time frame, we chose to keep all of our salaried full-time employees on but had to furlough our hourly and part time staff.
We just opened our south shop in the past week as we’ve tried to rebuild our team. We’re now letting limited numbers of people in our shops, but still doing a lot of business as curbside pickup. Our guide service was shut down for a bit, so we had to analyze and re-write our operations plans to meet safety precautions.
We started guiding again on May 18th and have been booking a decent number of trips. We do still have our season in front of us, so we’re hoping for a rebound. It’ll be hard to know the full impact until October, and we’re hoping for the best.
Flylords: Can you tell us a little bit about the Zoom Presentations/Webinars you have been doing?
Grant: Yeah they have been great. We’ve been doing them every Thursday and trying to switch up topics. It’s been awesome to see some of our great friends and to have the opportunity to chat live with them. Additionally, we’ve been inviting some local fly fishing celebrities like John Gierach to join. Overall, it’s just been a fun way to interact and connect with folks.
Flylords: Where are some “homewater” fishing opportunities in Fort Collins?
Grant: Ton of current opportunities. We’re currently in peak runoff and it looks like all rivers will begin to drop over the next 2 weeks. That is what I consider prime time on our local rivers. Water clarity begins to improve and the largest bugs of the year show themselves, which brings the fish out to play. All of our local rivers will be in prime come mid-June. The lakes have been fishing fantastic as well for warm water species. Fort Collins has a ton of lakes and ponds around town that are loaded with smallmouth bass, wiper, carp and other species.
Flylords: What is St. Pete’s relationship with New Belgium Brewing? Have local businesses in Fort Collins been supporting each other through these times?
Grant: We’ve got a wonderful relationship with New Belgium Brewing and they couldn’t be more supportive of our shops. They’re a staple in our community and always willing to help in any way they can. On March 16th, just before the outbreak and closures here, we did a movie showing fundraiser at the brewery. Truly they’re amazing friends and our community wouldn’t be the same without them.
There’s been a ton of local business supporting each other which has been wonderful to see. One thing we’ve been doing to try to support local businesses is our “Weekly Local Business Give Away” The way that works is each week I go to a local business that is a community partner of ours and make a $100-$150 purchase to give to our customers. For example, we bought a 10 x $10 gift card to a local restaurant and then gave them out to the next 10 customers who spent $100 at the shop. We hope in turn they’ll go to the restaurant and potentially purchase dinner for there family. Just trying to find a way to drive business to those who need help the most.
Flylords: What is your favorite New Belgium beer? Current and/or past.
Oh there’s so many good ones and I’m a beer junky. Currently, I’m on the hazy kick, so I normally reach for Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA. I do love sours as well, so probably my favorite all-time beer from NBB is La Folie, although I do remember back in 2001 when I used to sneak in with my fake and work over a few Fat Tires. Shhhh don’t tell.
Flylords: Have the fly fishing brands been supportive through this time?
Grant: Very much so! Everyone is doing the best they can and helping in any way possible. They’ve extended payment dating, help us get our inventories healthy as possible, and have been sounding boards on what to do and what is going on. As we all know, there was so much information coming out and so many changes taking place all at once. We as shops don’t have the financial power to hire lawyers to work through legal jargon, but many of the manufactures were willing to help and offer suggestions through the resources. We’ve got great friendships within our industry, and those relationships have really shined during challenging times. Much thanks to those who have been there to help!
Flylords: How can your customers support you right now?
Grant: Be safe and keep fishing. The last thing we need for everyone’s sake is for the virus to flare up again. Small businesses are struggling to get through what has already taken place, and we surely can’t afford another round of closures. If people stay safe and are cognoscente of there actions, hopefully we can keep flare-ups at bay. From there keep fishing and shop local. If people keep fishing, then people will need gear. In turn, if they choose to shop locally, then hopefully we can find a way to power through our prime season.
Flylords: What are you guys looking forward to most once the pandemic passes?
Grant: Being able to interact with our customers(friends). Over the years St. Peter’s Fly Shop foundation has come from those who we interact with. The stories, bull shitting, and just being able to hang out in chat. Additionally, the ability to travel and fly fishing. We have wonderful opportunities locally to scratch the itch, but I’ve always got Permit and Steelhead on my mind.
Cheers to Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing for making the “Staying Afloat Series” possible!