Being laid off lured fisherman Rich Naliborski to turn his hobby into an enterprise 32 years ago. He still runs the New Athens fish pole repair and supply service by himself. Five years ago, he moved the business out of his home and into a shop located where fishermen regularly drive past on their way to and from local waters where they can cast their lines.
Rich’s Rod & Reel Repair is open Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sundays. “That’s my day of fishing,” Naliborski says.
Last week, he invited business writer Will Buss to his shop to talk tackle, rods and reels:
Q: How has your new shop’s location compare to your former in-house locale?
A: “It’s a lot easier giving directions for people to find me here than it was at the house. Anybody who goes back here to Peabody River King (State Fish and Wildlife Area), they pass me twice a day, which is nice. They might not stop then, but it’s in their mind.”
Q: What is Peabody River King?
A: “It’s fishing. They have a bunch of lakes out there.”
Q: So your relocation was more of a strategic move for your business?
A: “To me, it was. Yes. Like I said, anybody who goes out there, they’ll stop in and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t even know you were here.’ You have fishing there; you have fishing at Baldwin Lake; you have the (Kaskaskia River). There’s a lot of fishing in this area.”
Q: How did you get into rod and reel repair?
A: “Well, I got laid off from the railroad and I needed something to do. I’d seen a little article in a magazine, ‘Start your own rod and reel repair shop.’ So, I did.”
Q: What is the extent of repairs you provide?
A: “Bait cast reels, you take them totally apart, take all of the old grease out, clean them up, put new grease and new oil in, replace parts, if needed. Spinning reels or even the Zebcos, I do those, too. As far as the rods, I can either build one from just taking a bare blank and if a person wants cork or foam for a handle, if he wants any color of thread, I’ve probably got it.”
Q: How do you compete with large retail chains?
A: “By offering the services of rod and reel repair, if somebody knocks the insert out of a tip on a rod and they bring it in, usually I can do that while they wait. Heat the old one, pull it off, put the glue down, put a new one on. In five or 10 minutes, they’re out the door, and they’re happy. They can finish fishing today.”
Q: What other fishing supplies do you sell?
A: “I really don’t advertise it, because I don’t have that wide of a selection. That’s kind of if somebody walks in and gets something fixed, ‘Oh, look what you’ve got. I was looking for that.’”
Q: What do you enjoy most about your running your own business?
A: “Probably meeting the fishermen. There’s always a story, either the one that got away or the one they did catch.”
- Job: Owner, Rich’s Rod & Reel Repair at 825 New Baldwin Road in New Athens (618-475-9922)
- Outlook: “I’d seen a little article in a magazine, ‘Start your own rod and reel repair shop.’ So, I did.”