Friendship, Humor Available at No Cost
By Laurie Hindman
Although he refers to it as “this goofy little bait shop,” the affection owner and manager Bob Todd holds for Bennett’s Tackle clearly runs deep. Todd’s father, Byron Todd, bought the shop in “ ’68 or something” when he retired from being vice-president of Sears Roebuck and Company.
Todd took over the shop after returning from college at the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in agriculture. “My father gave me the shop,” said Todd. “Who gives away a business and expects nothing in return? Nobody but my Dad.” Todd said his father, now 84 years old, still comes and works in the shop everyday. “Never takes a dime,” commented Todd. “His entire point in life is to make his kid a success. He is the best father anybody could have.”
Bennett’s is known to most locals as the place to come for tackle, bait, lures, fishing licenses and to leave broken rods and tangled reels for repair. What many do not realize is that the little shop on east Bunyan Avenue has sub-contracted with “Eagle Claw,” a large manufacturer of rods, reels, hooks and tackle, for 30 years, assembling rods and reels and sorting, repairing and packaging, damaged products. Bennett’s also sells wholesale merchandise to marinas and gas stations. “That’s really how we exist,” said Todd. “We couldn’t make it on just bait and lures and stuff.”
The shop is also been a gathering spot for fishermen, kids and “old guys who like to talk.” In addition to fishing clubs (Bass, Walleye, Trout, and Muskie aficionados meet there monthly) Todd explained that over the years many resident “old timers,” mainly retired farmers, would come over, pull up a stool and spend the day helping sort hooks or assemble rods and talk. “Twenty five or so of the most wonderful old guys would come here for nothing,” said Todd. “Sit here and talk with us. Most of them have passed away now.”
Todd said that over the years he has hired hundreds of teenagers to help in the business as well as stay-at-home moms who would bring home boxes of hooks to sort and package. “Never made a lot of money, none of them, but made a little.”
He has also been actively involved in what he calls, “fish politics.” Since 1980 he has helped write the fishing regulations that protect state waters and fish populations. Foremost for Todd, however, is the education of kids.
Todd loves sharing his fishing expertise with young people. At least 10 or more times a year he is involved in projects or events where children from all walks of life can learn to cast, tie knots, bait a hook or tie on a lure, and hopefully, catch a fish. “That’s where I am most sympathetic,” said Todd with a crooked smile. “It’s with the kids. I love showing them how to fish.” Todd donates rods to Scouting events and charities and is always happy to take the time to help a youngster learn how to use a rod and reel. “Every kid should have a chance to experience fishing.”
In addition to running the tackle shop and providing a spot for fishermen to gather to tell their tales, Todd is an ardent beekeeper and mentor to other beekeepers in the area. “Beekeeping is like fishing,” said Todd. “You can spend your whole life at it and learn something new tomorrow. There’s never an end to fishing and there’s never an end to beekeeping.”
The tackle shop owner builds bee boxes for Vitamin Cottage stores and is their sole supplier in this area of the delectable honeycomb produced by the busy beehives. Bennett’s is not just a gathering place for those who love to fish, but for those who love bees. “We have a goofy group of beekeepers that stop in all the time,” laughed Todd. “They’re as nutty as the fishing guys.”
“These walls have heard a lot over thirty years.,” said Todd. “Don’t know of any business that has had as much fun. It’s the funnest place on earth.” He said the mom and pop shops of years past are a rarity. “It’s a big box store world now.” Still, Todd has no immediate plans to retire.
“I guess I’ll be here as long as I want to be here,” he adds. “If I were to quit, they’d all come over to my house and sit on my couch.”
Bennett’s Tackle is located at 121 Bunyan Ave., and is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
<p>Bennett’s Tackle longtime owner and manager Bob Todd with employee Tommy Simon.</p>