By William Smith
Troy Mitchell started his gun and bait store in Muscatine, but he is a hometown Burlington boy.
That is why he expanded into the former AIM Credit Union on Roosevelt Avenue with Mitchell Arms and Outdoors Store. The local competition for firearms and live bait is light, Mitchell said, and he wanted to bring his business back home.
“We do everything. Fishing, hunting, shooting, ammo accessories, holsters,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to duplicate what we have in Muscatine.”
Mitchell opened Mitchell Arms and Ammo in Muscatine in 2010, starting in a tiny, 12-foot-by-12-foot office. It has since expanded into a much larger building, with every kind of bait — live and synthetic.
“We have minnows, sucker fish, wax worms, earthworms, leeches,” Mitchell said.
And, of course, lots and lots of guns. Many firearms are on display at the shop, ranging from semi-automatic rifles to revolvers the size of a small dog. You can even buy a silencer after applying through the proper paperwork. That is something Mitchell and his crew can help with as well.
“Gun-wise, we have probably every major manufacturer in here. We do trade-ins, we do consignment, we do layaway. You can see the inventory for both stores online. We don’t charge any transfer fees or anything when you buy from us,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is an agent for Farm Bureau Financial Services and started Mitchell Arm and Ammo as a side business. It has evolved into his main business, and Mitchell attributes that to customer service.
“We’re not gun snobs. Nobody is going to look down their nose at you here,” Mitchell said.
It may sound like a simple concession, but hobby shops can be intimidating to the uninitiated. Mitchell wants to expand interest in firearms — not run off customers because they’ve never bought or fired a gun before.
“We have generations that are missing out on firearms. And if gun store owners keep doing that (acting arrogant), then we’re gonna lose them,” Mitchell said.
Firearms were a divisive topic long before Mitchell got into the business, which makes it one of the few businesses affected by the party of the President of the United States. When Trump was in office, sales slumped a bit, Mitchell said. Gun owners weren’t worried about gun control legislation. When a Democrat is in office, the opposite happens.
Mitchell said the sales bumps are nice, but he would rather firearms move beyond politics and become a hobby again. Shooting ranges are rising in popularity. And hunting will always be a prime pastime in Iowa.
“We stayed open during the pandemic, and a couple of years ago, we had our best year ever,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, we were just as busy during the pandemic.”
Handguns are one of Mitchell’s most popular items and can be taken right out of the store after purchase. No permit is needed to buy a handgun or a long rifle in Iowa, and no permit is needed to carry concealed, either. You must be 21 to buy a handgun, and 18 to buy a rifle.
Everyone who buys a firearm must register, however. It’s the law and a law Mitchell takes very seriously.
“I don’t want our guns in the hands of the wrong people,” Mitchell said. “It’s very strict. We have to provide instant background checks for everyone who has not been pre-qualified by the state.”
The Mitchell Arms and Outdoor Store in Burlington opened about a month ago, and it only took Mitchell and his crew a month to renovate the building from a credit union to a gun store. Most locals are in the discovery phase with the store, learning about the store via word of mouth.
Mitchell wants to get the word out to law enforcement and first responders. The store is well-protected through gates and other security measures, but that is not why Mitchell wants them to know about the store.
“All first responders get a 10 percent discount,” Mitchell said. “Not just law enforcement, but firefighters, judges, EMTs, retired and active military.”