New gun shop now open in Rockland

James “Jim” Mercer, owner of The Smoking Gun, a new gun shop in Rockland is now open for business. Herald photos by Nicole Vik.

The Smoking Gun, located at 100 S Commercial Street in Rockland is now open for business. Ever since the gun shop’s owner James “Jim” Mercer was young, he’s always had an appreciation for firearms; at one point Mercer even studied to become a member of law enforcement.

“I’ve always hunted and had guns and out of high school my mom told me to go to college,” Mercer said. “I thought why not go to school to learn how to be a cop and get to shoot guns and drive fast cars.”

Eventually, Mercer took on a career in construction but after several back problems, which eventually led to surgery, it was no longer in the cards for him to continue in that profession.

The Rockland native has also owned The Vault, a bar and restaurant in Rockland, for the past 11 years. Mercer joked that he now owns the only two banks in town.

The bar was originally built as a bank and the building which now houses The Smoking Gun was originally a bank as well. It was built in the early 1900s; the original vault is still in the basement.

The building later became a grocery store, a post office and eventually Mercer’s family lived there. When he bought a new house, the building was left vacant.

Since he already owned the building, he figured he might as well put his love of guns to good use and do something with the vacant building.

Mercer applied for his Federal Firearms License, which enables him to buy and sell guns and ammunition, last September. He then wrote up a business plan, remodeled the building and bought as much inventory as he could.

One of the biggest challenges Mercer has faced is securing inventory.

“I’m getting into the business about a year too late,” he said. “Any time before this I would have been able to buy stuff, now a lot of wholesalers won’t even take me as a dealer because they don’t have any inventory.”

As a dealer, Mercer can’t buy firearms directly from manufacturers; the guns must be purchased from a wholesaler.

According to him, there are roughly 10 to 15 major wholesalers and only five of them were able to accept Mercer as a dealer.

“The rest can’t even supply their existing dealers and they’re not taking on any new ones,” he explained, adding that ammunition, handguns and ARs are really hard to come by right now. “I’m trying to order as much as I can. I have 80 guns in inventory and it took me three months to get that many.”

For now, Mercer only plans to have The Smoking Gun open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“If my truck is in the driveway and the light is on, feel free to stop in,” Mercer said.

Evans Print & Media Group

1302 River Rd.
P.O. Box 252

Sparta, WI 54656-0252

Office Number: (608) 269-3186
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