UNION — Hunters and fisherman looking to get outfitted for their latest excursion and growing numbers of women looking to buy a gun to protect themselves are doing their shopping at the Totem Pole.
Located at 315 Bellvue Road in the South Hill area near the South Hills Baseball Complex, the Totem Pole was opened by Tommy Bell and his wife, Barbara “Bobbie” Bell in 1982 and incorporated in 1988. The store sells a wide array of firearms and hunting and fishing equipment, as well as offering a number of services related to its merchandise.
“We’re a sporting goods store, we sell hunting and fishing equipment,” Bell said Monday. “We sell handguns, long guns and muzzle loaders. We are also an archer pro shop. We have a large selection of fishing equipment. We carry gun safes. We carry tree stands.
“We stock a little bit of everything including all calibers and gauges of ammunition,” he said. “We also have reloading supplies and equipment. We also have a selection of cammo clothing and hunting boots. We carry all things that can be used in hunting.”
Bell said the wide variety of game in Union County including deer and turkey has made hunting popular here, both for resident hunters and for hunters from outside the county and from outside South Carolina.
“Union County probably has as many hunters as any other county in the state and probably more,” Bell said. “During deer hunting season from July through Jan. 1, probably 20 percent of my customers are non-resident hunters. During the months of March and April during turkey season, we have a big influx of non-resident turkey hunters. We have them from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia and, occasionally, some up from Florida.”
Fishing is also a popular local pastime and many of those who indulge do so after getting the necessary supplies from the Totem Pole.
“Fishing is really popular in Union County,” Bell said. “We get a lot of traffic because there’s a lot of pond fishing here and people are not only fishing here but elsewhere at Lake Murray, Lake Greenwood, Lake Monticello and others.
“In the summer and spring we carry live bait and our selection of fishing lures is probably second to none in South Carolina,” he said. “There are so many types of fishing lures that it is impossible for any store to carry all of them. What we do is when we know the types people want, we try to have them in stock.”
Bell said the wide variety of products the Totem Pole carries and the services it provides enables it to get referrals from other sporting good stores in the area that do not have as wide a selection and do not provide the services their customers are seeking, particularly where guns are concerned.
“Most other stores don’t carry the detailed items that we have,” Bell said. “We get referrals from Spartanburg all the time and we pick up new customers that way.
“We service what we sell, we service the guns we sell,” Bell said. “We do some minor gunsmithing, installing scopes and slings. We provide the means for the shipping and repair items purchased elsewhere as well as what we sell. We also offer gun cleaning services.”
Another service the Totem Pole provides is gun transfers.
“We also do gun transfers, both shipping and receiving,” Bell said. “If someone in Union buys a gun online from somebody in Arizona and it has to be transferred through dealerships, we provide that service.”
Bell said gun sales are especially strong now at the Totem Pole, especially sales to women as they are getting more involved in hunting and looking for a means to protect themselves.
“What’s selling right now are handguns for ladies,” Bell said. “The way the conditions are right now in the country, people need protection. We’re seeing more and more women buying guns, applying for concealed weapons permits. We’re also seeing more women getting involved in deer hunting, both gun and bow hunting.
“A lot of women come in with their husbands and a lot of them come in by themselves,” he said. “I’d say 35-40 percent of our customers are women.”
Bell said many of the women are looking for handguns that are easier to use and easy to conceal.
“They are looking for subcompacts in revolvers and automatics,” Bell said. “These are much more concealable in purses and handbags. Some though choose to carry them on their person.”
Bell said he’s seen a growing number of individuals over 50, especially women, buying guns.
“Many of them are alone and they want to have some means to protect themselves,” he said.
In addition to selling them guns, Bell said Totem Pole also offers its customers training in how to properly use the weapons they purchase.
“We also offer a basic handgun course, for ladies primarily,” Bell said. “This enables the individual to become familiar with their gun and proficient with it. Safety is first and foremost.
“We also offer concealed weapons classes,” he said. “Eight times out of 10 they sign up for the course then or later.”
Bell said that whether they are looking for hunting or fishing supplies or guns, shoppers should always make the Totem Pole their last stop on their way to getting a bargain.
“When you’re shopping around looking for the best price, call the Totem Pole last,” Bell said.
The Totem Pole is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information about the store, its products and services, call 864-427-9543 or 864-427-9545.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.