Get to Know Kim
Interview with Kim Barry on 8.12.15
How long have you been with Tejas and when did you become the sole owner?
I’ve been here 23 1/2 years. And I’ve been one of the owners since ’99, and the sole owner since 2005.
What about this business do you love? Why is gun culture a passion for you?
Obviously, I love the fact that we have the freedom to keep and bear arms in this country. I love the fact that it’s a very empowering sport.
I love that our largest growing demographic is females and they love the fact that they can actually come into Tejas and talk to and meet with women because we do have women on staff here.
And, probably most of all, I love our customers. I love talking to our customers, I love serving our customers, teaching our customers – that’s probably the most rewarding thing about being here at Tejas. We just really have some awesome customers!
I imagine Tejas customers are also very loyal?
Absolutely, in fact we have several families – guys that have been shopping with us since they were kids, and now they bring their kids into the store. We’ve got grandfathers that have been bringing their sons and grandsons into Tejas. We’ve got guys that go off to the military, come home, come back to us, and start bringing their families in. Same thing with college students, you know, they’ll move to Lubbock to attend Tech, then move back to Odessa and it’s like they never left. Not only do we have very loyal clients, I would consider them extremely loyal. And, we’ve got clients who love to bring their wives into the shop because they know that they’re going to be met with folks that are patient and kind and you know, we’re not the ‘Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out’ kind of people.
Why do you think Tejas is such an inviting place to be?
I think because of the guys that work here and the girls that work here. We’ve got three folks working here who have been here for over 23 years. We’re fixtures here [in Odessa]. People know us, we’re out in the community. Our staff who haven’t been here as long are very receptive to learning, they want to serve our customers, they want to serve in our community and I think that people love and appreciate that. Customers love the fact that when they walk in they’re greeted. They love the fact that we try to remember their names. They love the fact that they feel comfortable bringing their families here. So I think that, that’s not something I’ve done, that’s something that WE’VE done, we’ve created an environment where people love to be. They feel like they can trust us, and they feel welcome here.
Explain to me how Tejas is willing to go the extra mile for its customers?
Two of our core values are being informative and learning. What those two things entail are a) we have to know the product and, if we don’t, b) we have to be willing to learn. Secondly, I can’t give you (the customer) proper information if I’m not willing to ask questions. I can tell you what gun I like, I can tell you the brands that are my personal preferences and my favorites. But you’re not me. So it’s my job to glean from you: what the objective is, how comfortable you are, how much time you’re willing to spend at the range, do you have any physical issues that may prevent you from using a particular type of firearm, do you intend to carry, or is this for home defense? All of those are super, super important questions to ask. When we start asking those questions, that gives us some information that helps us to steer you where you need to go. So what we like to do is educate and inform and let YOU make the decision about the firearm that’s best for YOU.
In fact, that belief is what facilitated the Basic Handgun Class. Originally, we had a lot of folks coming in that had no shooting experience, or very little shooting experience, so they had no idea what they may or may not like in the way of, for instance, grip angle or the frame of the gun, or the caliber of the gun as far as recoil is concerned. And if you have no experience shooting them, you can’t make an informed decision about those types of things. So, we put together the Basic Handgun Class specifically to get some range time in, shoot some different types of firearms, and get a feel for what they may or may not like.
Tell me about your personal experience with guns. When did you start shooting and how did your interest grow over time?
I started shooting when I was about 8 years old, very generally. I had an uncle who owned firearms, he lived out on a ranch and when I was out there I’d get to shoot. So it was a fairly sporadic type thing growing up. Now, there were some summers when I might shoot a lot, but then I might go for a few months and not get to shoot at all. Once I decided that I wanted a concealed handgun license, I figured I better learn how to shoot a handgun if I wanted to carry one. I actually didn’t start shooting handguns until I was in my mid-20s. To be frank, handguns are probably my first love as far as the disciplines go. I love shooting handguns more than anything else!
I love competing for a multitude of reasons, obviously I like the competition itself – I’m a competitive person. There’s an adrenaline rush just like in any other sport that’s hard to obtain in normal, everyday life. But when you get out there and you’re competing against other folks, specifically competing against yourself, there’s something to be said for that – it’s FUN and it’s great stress-relief. So I do like the competitive side for that reason, but I also like competition because it helps me familiarize myself with my equipment, to become more comfortable and confident in my equipment, and also to become more comfortable and confident as a shooter. One of the things I teach students is: In shooting, the big hurdle is the mental component. You have to believe you can do it, and you have to believe that you can do it well. To get there, you have to spend some time behind the gun. You have to be willing to spend some time on the range. You have to spend time training. In order to achieve that objective of becoming very comfortable and confident with firearms, you have to commit.
One of the things I would like to do more is increase my knowledge. I have a very, very good general knowledge about firearms, but I’m very weak on specifics. You know, some of my Tejas guys can walk through an AR and explain every part, how it works, what it does, etc., etc. There are some handguns I can do that with. But, in general, that’s where I have a tremendous knowledge deficit, and where I continually strive to improve.
How do you go about educating yourself more in-depth on firearms?
We actually have a lot of resources available to us in the industry. We have access to a lot of manufacturers’ literature. We have online portals that we can use that basically you go through a segment of information and take a test at the end. Once you’ve mastered that portal you can actually qualify for discounts on their products – so that really incentivizes you to learn about the product. The benefit on the backside of that is not only can we qualify for a discount to purchase, say, a Benchmade Knife, but we’re also learning about that product, which helps us to sell the product. The more information you can give to the customer, the easier it is to sell the product.
You’ve grown this business tremendously since you’ve been here. Tell me what changes you’ve made so far and what goals you have for the future.
Every year we have experienced growth at Tejas, but we have experienced anomalies. If we have a political season where people are talking about passing anti-gun legislation, things tend to skyrocket and it gets a little crazy and chaotic. Removing those outliers from the equation, we’ve had consistent growth every single year since I became one of the owners. Some of the growth has been tremendous. The things that we have done that are a lot different than when I first came on board are: we have really expanded our handguns, and we’ve really expanded our tactical rifles. We’ve incorporated teaching into the mix, as far as basic handgun classes, concealed handgun license classes, intermediate pistol, things like that.
Some things that I want to do better: I want to increase our community involvement. We try right now to make sure that every quarter we’re involved in some type of nonprofit. Giving back to the sport, giving back to the community – I would like to increase that if at all possible in the coming years so that we’re participating in more of those types of events. I would like to see my guys have the opportunity to get more involved. They do help with some of the events right now. As we grow more and more staff I would like for those staff to be able to be involved more, because then of course we would have people who could cover the store while we did those types of events.
And of course, I want the business to grow. I remember times when there was just one of us working the store at a time. Then, there might be two of us here at a time. And, now, we have a number of employees. Our employees run the gamut: our youngest is 18, our oldest is 72. We have males, females, [our dog, Molly], we’re a very diverse crew. We have a lot of commonalities which allow us to be very cohesive, that also allows us to be friends. This is an extended family. But we’re also very different in a lot of ways too, and that makes it very fun and interesting.
How would you describe yourself? What role do you have in this Tejas family?
Well, I’m the matriarch. I’m very, very motivated, I’m a type-A personality. I work really hard. I work long hours, and it’s funny, I have some customers and good friends that, if they don’t see me in the store, they tease me and say, “Oh, are you out popping bonbons?” and they don’t realize that I spend a tremendous amount of time at home working for Tejas. So, it’s not uncommon for me to put in 12- and 14-hour days and to do that religiously. You know I’ll go for 2 and 3 weeks without a day off, but it’s a very rewarding thing to do. So, yeah, I don’t know that I’m the easiest person to work for, but I definitely know that I LOVE my guys and I think they know it; I appreciate my guys and I’m positive that they know it. I am a harsh taskmaster in some ways because I’m not all about saying, “pretty please” and “will you?” and “won’t you?”. I work with men and women and I treat them as such. When I ask for something to get done, I know it’s going to get done.
I’ve been to [employee-related] weddings, I’ve been to funerals, I’ve been to baby showers, I’ve closed the store for funerals. I don’t go to graduations because they’re awful and I can’t stand sitting for four hours, but I DO send a graduation present! [Grins.] But, if I get invited to a barbecue, I’m all over it! My guys come to my house on a regular basis. We eat together, we shoot together, we hunt together. So, yeah, I’m the mom, and the leader, and I guess that’s what I do.