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Ronan Sports and Western closes after 61 years

By Karen Peterson / Valley Journal

People will have to find a new place to get gear, licensing and the occasional carton of fishing worms now that Montana’s great outdoor store closed up shop in early September after 61 years in business. 

Ronan Sports and Western opened in 1957 on Main Street. The shop eventually moved to a second location on the same street before ending up at 63298 U.S. Highway 93.

Rob Shrider, owner of Ronan Sports and Western, didn’t start the business. He was born and raised in the small town and went to work at the shop in 1978, after serving in the United States Air Force for seven years.

He said it was “a great business” to earn a living and support his family, including four children. Three of the kids helped out in the store as they were growing up. Shrider said the business faced its share of obstacles including several burglaries. 

He explained that burglaries happen when the store is closed, as opposed to robberies that occur when the store is open. “We were never robbed,” he said. “With the burglaries, people took numerous items, guns mostly, and they broke the glass on the front door a few times.”

The hometown business also faced competition as big box stores developed in surrounding communities. Despite the challenges, Shrider said he worked with the business as an employee then as an owner for four decades and enjoyed spending time with the customers.

“I want to thank them for all the fun years,” he said with teary eyes. “The customers are the toughest part to give up.”

He said the customers included locals around Lake County and tourists from outside the country. “We are just a little town in the middle of nowhere, but we had customers from farther than you can believe,” he said. “They regularly came from Canada to Alaska, maybe not every year, but they did come back.”

People really started visiting the store when it was announced this summer that the doors would be closing for good. “I’m going to miss the people, but I’m going to try something different.”

He doesn’t know what he will be doing yet as he starts down the road toward retirement. Before the store closed, he said he was going to finish cleaning out the building and sorting what was left. “I don’t know what I’ll do next until I get there, but I know I’ll need to be doing something.”

Shrider didn’t own the building. He said the owners sold it in June. “I don’t know what will happen to the building, but someone bought it.”

Ben Maughan jokingly said he started working at the store just before the mountains started coming up, but seriously, it was around 30 years, and people have told him “zillions” of hunting and fishing stories. “We had a couple kids come in, 15-year-olds, and they had a smallmouth bass that was 21-inches long and seven pounds,” he said. “It was close to the record, and they were so excited.”

Maughan said he thinks the town will change without the sporting goods store. “It’s a loss to the community. Where will the people go to tell their stories? They’ve been coming in for years, and now, we won’t have that.”   

Pete Reum of Pablo said he has shopped at the store for many years and called it a  “convenient” small-town location. He was buying a few last minute items before the store closed. “It’s sad to see it go,” he said.News from Tom Fieber, lead hunter 

education instructor

Class for the Polson, Ronan, Pablo, Fall Hunter Education course will start Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Polson Middle School. All classes will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. Interested students are required to register online at fwp.mt.gov. A parent or guardian must accompany students under 18 to the first class with completed forms downloaded from the website.

Student course manuals must be read and all the questions answered at the end of each chapter before the first class night on Oct. 10. No one will be allowed to take the class without this requirement completed. Pick up manuals with instructions at Westland Seed in Ronan, Murdoch’s or Walmart in Polson. Those in need of computer or printer assistance can register and pick up manuals at the CSKT, DFWRC Information Education building on 6th Ave. E, south of the tennis courts in Polson.

Individuals 10 years of age or older at the start of the class may be certified upon successfully completing the course. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1985, must complete a hunter education course before buying a hunting license in Montana (see FWP website for exceptions). The course is free of charge and taught by volunteer instructors.

Classes start Tuesday, Oct. 2, and continue through Oct. 4. A mandatory field course is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 7, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The mandatory written test is on Monday, Oct. 8, the final day. 

Participants must attend all classes and the field day and be on time to be certified. All hunter education classes are free of charge and open to hunters and non-hunters alike. Some students take the courses for firearm safety and outdoor survival information, even if they don’t plan to hunt. 

Adults, please feel free to attend as many classes as you can with your children. I encourage you to take the test and take part in the field day with your student. All firearms and ammunition are provided, as attendees are not allowed to bring either to the classes or the field day.

For registration and updates, check the online class schedule at http://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/hunterEd.html. For more information on the Ronan, Pablo, Charlo Hunter Education course, call the lead instructor Tom Fieber at 406-250-3386 or Germaine White with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at 406-675-2700 ext. 7299.

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