Armed and prosperous: Hyatt Gun Shop aims to please, which is why business is booming at the nation's largest independent gun store.

Author:Martin, Edward

Ten thousand times a year, at an average of $300 each, customers give the owners of the nation's largest independent gun store reason to thank a little old lady of long ago. In 1959, coin collector William Hyatt went to her house to appraise a collection left by her husband. She also had antique firearms. "My father told her he didn't deal in guns, but she said if he wanted the coins he had to buy them, too," Larry Hyatt says.


He did. The result is Hyatt Coin arid Gun Shop Inc. on Charlotte's west side--a mecca for hobbyists, hunters, nervous novices and squinty-eyed pros. "That lady got us started in the gun business," says Hyatt, the company's president. "She had some old Winchester rifles. My father read up on them and got interested in guns."

Now, Hyatt Gun Shop sprawls over more than 20,000 square feet, an armory of about 5,000 guns, ranging from $100 pistols to consignment sales and auctions of exquisite collector guns. A 12-gauge Parker with engraving that would make a minter envious might top $15,000. "Anything that shoots and is legal, we carry it," Hyatt says. "In today's business climate, we need that diversity--hunters, law-enforcement officers, target shooters, self-defense--the whole gamut."


Gun ownership is at record highs, but selling guns isn't easy, Hyatt says. For one thing, it's rigorously regulated. "There are age restrictions, residency restrictions, waiting periods, background checks, different kinds of permits." Hyatt employs a compliance officer who audits sales and trains the store's 15 other full-time and eight part-time workers. Federal firearms auditors also monitor sales....

To continue reading