WHITEFIELD — Five years after changing hands, the Village Gun Store remains a mom-and-pop success story.
Nicole and Josh D’Agnese are the mom and pop. Josh works the counter, Nicole handles the paperwork. They purchased the store in 2014 and remain committed to offering the same superior customer service and deep discounts that have drawn generations of gun buyers.
“We have crazy good prices, we’re very personal here, and we’re all about integrity,” said Josh, a 13-year Army veteran who served three combat tours, two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
He emphasized his commitment to integrity.
“We don’t do the whole used car salesman bit,” he said. “We don’t push them into buying certain firearms. We see what they need it for, we direct them that way, and we set them up for success,” said D’Agnese, adding, “One of our core values [in the military] was selfless service.”
A second generation gun dealer, D’Agnese has combined old and new ways of doing business. Over the past five years, he and his wife have maintained Village Gun’s in-store inventory — improving displays, adding new products, maintaining robust selection — while also growing their on-line sales.
Village Gun has embraced internet commerce. The business sells firearms and accessories through its online store, which was launched two years ago, and via online auction sites. Those outlets have allowed Village Gun, which already drew customers from across the region, to expand its reach nationwide and internationally.
“You’ve gotta update and stay with current stuff,” said D’Agnese. “I could survive without it, but it’s a multiplier.”
Still, the store’s bread and butter remains the local customers, a diverse collection of people interested in purchasing firearms, ammunition and more: Hunters, target shooters, law enforcement, military, collectors, and those seeking personal protection.
He noted that a growing demographic for his business has been women.
“There are a lot of first time female buyers,” he said. “Quite a few tell me they went to other places, and usually one of two things happened to them: Either they’re quickly pressured into buying something they don’t want, or sometimes [other sellers] don’t want to deal with them because they’re women.”
D’Agnese frowns on that sort of dismissive behavior. His aim, he said, is to treat all of his customers fairly, equally and with respect.
“We’re very personal, especially a first time buyer, it’s a lot of pressure and they get intimidated, so we make sure we get to their level,” he said.
In that way, the D’Agneses are carrying on the tradition of store founders Stan and Sandy Holz, who arrived from New York City and opened the Village Gun Store in 1974. Originally located next door, in the current R-Place Bagel Shop and Deli space, it moved to its current location at 4 King Square in 1984. The Holzes retired after 40 years in 2014.
Looking ahead, D’Agnese is optimistic that the Village Gun Store will continue to thrive. It will remain a family owned business for the foreseeable future with he, his wife, settled into the area with their two daughters, ages 11 and 4, and son, age 7.
The store’s business cards include the slogan “carrying on a proud patriotic tradition.”
He hopes to keep making improvements and adding services — the store resumed its practice of issuing hunting, fishing, OHRV and snowmobile permits last summer — and will continue to ride out the ups and downs of the industry, with gun sales peaking when regulations and restrictions are under consideration.
Those second amendment issues will no doubt mean that political candidates will continue to make campaign stops at Village Gun, as they have for decades, but D’Agnese expressed no interest in using those visits to elevate his own public standing. He simply wants to do his job, help others, and live out his American dream in the North Country.
Said D’Agnese, “I’m just a solider.”