Getting to know your neighbor: S&S Taxidermy is shooting straight
His son Brian started working in the shop when he was 12 years old and is now vice president of the S&S Taxidermy Archery Pro Shop LLC company.
“I remember sitting in this huge warehouse, looking around and saying, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into?’ ” Stedman said. “Dad’s store had outgrown itself, plain and simple. We bought Kevin Taylor’s vinyl sign business about two years ago. Now we do all vinyl signs, embroidery, that sort of thing.”
S&S Taxidermy also sells archery equipment as the top Mathews© bow retailer for the past nine years, as well as guns and sporting goods. The business also has a 3D and video shooting range.
“In the video range, you shoot your own bow and arrow into the screen, but it has a different tip so that when it hits the screen, a motion detector stops the action,” Stedman explained. “[Their popularity is] about 50/50. They both have their audiences. In the winter, a lot of guys like to put their bows on the back tables, shoot a little and [chew the fat].”
Stedman said that S&S Taxidermy also does a solid retail business, although business fluctuates with the seasons. He said that the difference between his shop and a big-box retailer is the service a pro shop offers.
“We treat our customers right and offer good service. That’s what a pro shop is: We sell and service the product, but also offer quality instruction. It’s like anything else. If you learn the wrong way, you’re going to develop bad habits and that’s going to be hard to correct. We teach people how to shoot the right way.”
Stedman said that his gun retail business did increase “more than we’d ever seen” after President Barack Obama was elected, but that he does not expect the same spike if Obama is re-elected.
“[Gun laws] are there for a reason. In some states, a person can walk into a store and pick up a quart of oil and a gun. It’s just the way it is. The right to bear arms is there; you just have to follow the rules.”
Stedman said he enjoys being his own boss, despite the ups and downs that come with owning his own business. “Being your own boss has a lot of stress. I like to say my family will be eating steak one week and Spam® the next. Just like any business, we’ve had some hard times and some good times. June and July are the slowest months and, in the fall, it comes back around,” he explained.
He said the key to keeping S&S Taxidermy open has been the diversity of the business, with its range of services and products.
“People think they can just open up a gun store, but you can’t compete with the big box store unless you’ve got more going on. The range keeps this place open in the winter,” Stedman said.
“There’s a lot to it. This is a family business. My son Bryce is 16 and this is going to be his some day. My daughters aren’t really into it. They all shoot and enjoy the outdoors, but the business isn’t really their thing,” he explained.
He also noted that the economy did not affect his business as much as it had other sectors.
“People say the economy is bad, but people will let their mortgage go to get a big buck. We’ve never had a downturn here,” he said. “It’s not that business hasn’t sometimes been bad; we have an overhead here like anything else, and we’re not making a killing, but this is a great town to do business in.”
Part of the success of the business is the people he encounters along the way, according to Stedman.
“Everybody’s great. I’ve met so many good people. There’s good leadership in the village and in the municipalities. We have everything we need here in Springville,” he said.
S&S Taxidermy employs 10 people in the summer, with an additional five or six in the busier fall season. Each person has a special job, but “when something needs to be done, everybody pitches in,” Stedman said. “It’s a team effort. We’ve got a good crew.”
His customer base comes from as far north as Grand Island and down to Olean and throughout the Southern Tier.
“It’s a broad spectrum,” he explained. “It just goes back to that customer service. We try to treat everyone right.”
As a hunter himself, Stedman said he thinks there are three camps of opinion, where this sport is concerned.
Stedman said he has seen everything from alligators to giraffes come into his taxidermy shop, with white-tailed deer’s being the most common in Western New York.
“Taxidermy is biggest in October and November. Last year, we did 209 deer. We mounted 13 black bear last year, which are on the rise.”
He said his most unusual mount was a giraffe, which measured 14 feet high from the shoulder.
“We get a lot of African game. I did a German shepherd once, a show dog, about 25 years ago, but we don’t do domestics. It’s just not moral. Deer are a taxidermist’s bread and butter,” he said. According to Stedman, a deer head mount takes approximately 14 - 16 hours of labor and is priced accordingly.
“It’s funny: 20 years ago, I was making the same as I make now [doing taxidermy]. I enjoy it,” he said. He added that the price of taxidermy is what is in order to pay for the rising cost of materials and labor for the taxidermists.
“We’ve got to pay a living wage,” he said. “This isn’t something you get into for the money.”
In addition, Stedman said he is happy to show off his craft and that of his workers.
“This is the only shop I know of in Western New York where you can walk right through the taxidermy shop and see what’s going on,” he said. “Where else can you touch a polar bear, a deer and an alligator all in one day? People like to see what we’re doing in here and we like to have them come check it out.”
S&S Taxidermy is open 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Friday, 9 – 5 on Saturday and closed Sundays during the summer. For more information, call 592-2404 or visit www.sstaxidermy.com.