Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare, Mich., is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The milestone is testament to the company’s commitment to “vision and drive, family and faith, love of the outdoors and conservation, tragedy and hardship, work ethic and success, not especially in that order,” writes Jeff Harrington, in the October issue of the Michigan-based Woods-n-Water News.
“It would be hard to rank all of that, because all of that put together is Jay’s,” Arlene Poet Yost, Jay’s cofounder and current corporate secretary/treasurer, said in the article.
Founded in 1971 by Yost and her late husband Jay Poet, the company has now become the largest independent, family-owned outdoor retailer in the Midwest, with two locations and three generations running the company.
The business began as Jay’s Gun Shop in 1968, and eventually filled the Poet’s one-car garage in Clare, Mich. The business continued to grow and expand, moving to different locations until the family opened a 72,000-square-foot warehouse in 1998, which the business still owns today.
One day before the grand opening of the new warehouse, Jay was diagnosed with cancer, which claimed his life nine months later. Faced with the grief of losing Jay, the family turned to their faith.
That faith instilled a desire to give back to the community. Woods-n-Water News relates that Jay’s has become one of the largest supporters and facilitators of conservation efforts and hunting education in the Michigan area. The family also funds the television program “Michigan Out-of-Doors,” hosted by Bob Garner, an icon of the state’s outdoor scene.
Jay’s has sponsored an annual fundraiser for Mid-Michigan Community College for the past 10 years. Total proceeds of nearly $900,000 are expected to surpass $1 million by next year’s event in April.
“They’re obviously very successful, but remain very classy and very humble people. They just do so much, and it’s all unsung,” Garner says in the Woods-n-Water News article.
Remembering their roots keeps the two Poet brothers, Jay and J.J., grounded and focused.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, ‘I bought my first gun from your dad back in the ’70s.’ They’ll recall what month it was, the make and model, and they just want to share that memory with us. It always means a lot,” J.J. told Woods-n-Water News.
To read the Woods-n-Water News article on Jay’s Sporting Goods, click “Digital Bonus.” For more information on Jay’s Sporting Goods, visit www.jayssportinggoods.com.
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