Tracy Fornwalt grew up in Quarryville and graduated from Solanco High School.
But the 47-year-old Fornwalt, who has an MBA from Lebanon Valley College, has spent most of her career outside Pennsylvania, working as a plant or operations manager for companies such as Coca-Cola, Miller Brewing Co. and Kellogg’s.
She also spent two years in California as vice president of manufacturing for POM Wonderful.
But in early 2015 she was back in Lancaster County and started talking with her cousin Nate Morrison about his small gun shop in Willow Street.
Specifically, they talked about expanding it.
“An indoor range was always my end goal,” Morrison said. “She was back from what she was doing and said, ‘Let’s look at it.’”
Those early discussions led to two years of research that included visiting scores of gun ranges across the country to see their operations.
And late last year all those efforts came to fruition with the opening of Morr Indoor Range and Training Center in Willow Valley Crossroads.
Morr Indoor Range and Training sells handguns, shotguns and rifles as well as ammunition, holsters, cases and other accessories.
Classes meant for beginners are now being offered, and classes for more advanced skill levels eventually will be added.
Fornwalt, who now lives in Quarryville, partnered with Morrison, 33, of Willow Street, on the new location that has 2,800 square feet of retail space as well as a shooting range.
“I had no idea I’d wind up in this industry,” she said.
Fornwalt declined to estimate the cost of building and equipping the leased building, as did the shopping center’s developer, Willow Valley Associates.
What was it like in the early days of the shop?
Morrison: Early on it was pretty much me, and my dad would come in the evenings after he was done with his normal job. We kept slowly growing.
It helped that I grew up in the southern end (of Lancaster County). My dad grew up in the southern end. We all grew up in the southern end. We all hunt and we all know hunters.
Why did you move and expand?
Fornwalt: Space was the driver. He was out of room, and he knew he was going to have to expand one way or another, so it was go with a bigger, broader retail store or go with the gigantic option (with an indoor range).
It quickly became apparent that while there’s a lot more risk here and a lot more capital involved, there’s a lot more potential. ... Firearms are sort of like the milk and bread in the grocery store; they’re very low margin items.
Who are your potential customers?
Fornwalt: The fastest growing segment for sure is women, so we knew we had an advantage there. There aren’t a lot of ranges that are owned by women by themselves or in partnership.
How do you get women interested?
Fornwalt: We’re going for more of a comfortable feel, less tactical look. The subtle, neutral tones that are in here versus that stark black military feel.
But as crazy as it sounds, a really nice bathroom is an incredible thing to get women to return — or turn them off.
Nothing about the design aesthetics is going to turn off a guy about coming in here, but the reverse may be true. If we had targeted that tactical guy, that might have made women feel uncomfortable.
Morrison: We could paint the walls pink, and men will come shoot. They don’t care as much. But if you make women comfortable, you get everybody.
How do you respond to people who might be critical of a business that makes guns available to more people?
Fornwalt: We’re certainly for the Second Amendment, but we want people to do it in a way that is educated, where they understand how to safely handle a firearm.
We don’t want to get into the business of politics, but we do want to provide folks who are interested in coming in a safe, comfortable place.
What’s the competition for your business?
Fornwalt: I think there’s really three. The first is the internet, as every other retail industry has seen. The advent of the internet has really pushed margins from a retail perspective.
The second component is the other ranges in the area, the trainers and gun shops in the area.
But the third piece is really related to discretionary income. We want folks to come here on Valentine’s Day and go out and use the range instead of going to some other date-night activity. Or we want them to come here on a Friday night with their friends instead of going to a movie.
How important was security in planning the new building?
Morrison: That was very heavy on our mind when we were designing this. That’s why there’s no windows and the only glass is the front door, and that’s why the roll down (overhead door) was always a no brainer.
Most break-ins at firearms establishments are through glass, so the biggest thing is preventing glass.