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Episode #122 with Aaron Strauss from Cache Tactical Supply
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Today’s guest was born to be an entrepreneur.?
Aaron Straus’ first business was raising meat rabbits at the age of 7 on his family farm near Strasbourg, SK and by the age of 11, using money earned from his paper route he got into the purebred Katahdin sheep business.
He went on to study Agriculture at the U of S and purchased his first section of farmland. Following his convocation in 2003, he returned home to farm full time running a commercial cattle / meat sheep / and grain operation.?
Following the passing of his parents and the ensueing labour shortage on the farm he made the decision to leave farming and moved to Regina. In 2011 he purchased City Collateral from his retiring Uncle & Aunt and continued to operate the business until 2022.
In 2017, he decided to diversify and open Cache Tactical Supply. Outside of business, Aaron has a broad range of interests including blacksmithing & knifemaking, hunting, fishing, woodworking and photography. Aaron and Stephanie live on an acreage near Regina and enjoy the getaway from the hustle of city life.
Are you ready to make the door swing the phone ring and the tail ding? In this episode, we’re talking about one of the best kept secrets in any community. Its network of local businesses, businesses that rely on foot traffic, phone calls and website bookings. Those same businesses that support your kids sport teams, donate to fundraising fundraising efforts, and help you be prepared to find adventure and enjoy the outdoors. But no more secrets and the skinny lessons that will make you wince to the TMZ style tells these everyday people are doing extraordinary things in their business. Welcome to The Secret Life of local. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, Google girl and founder of the Get found for local program. I’ve been helping local businesses thrive for over 20 years. From online businesses to multilocation stores, you can turn browsers to buyers and thinkers to viewers. Today, we’re sharing the secrets with a local business owner who helps you be prepared to be in the outdoors and enjoy it when you get there. Aaron Strauss is the owner and inspiration behind Cache Tactical. Welcome, Aaron, tell us a little bit about yourself and what keeps you going to be prepared and those outdoors.
Thank you for having me. Well, like you said, I’m the owner of Cache Tactical Supply here in Regina. Cache Tactical was opened in 2017. But I actually started coming up with the idea for it a couple of years before that. I have been a business owner in Regina since 2011. And I enjoy the challenge of of building a business I I had found in my previous position that I had kind of hit a ceiling that short of moving to another city and opening another location. I really had to hit the limits of of what I can do with it. So I looked at diversifying and looking at the Regina market, I really seen a need for the outdoor adventure there was there’s big box options, but there’s there’s not the the one stop shop for outdoor adventure. And so that’s what we tried to grow and build when we first opened cash tactical back in 2017.
So in your previous position, were you in retail as well and outdoors or was there a store okay.
I had actually had made a contact to with somebody for selling medical supplies. And so I was sourcing medical supplies for first responder groups and then selling them through the other location. And it was just getting to the point that it was taking up too much space in my warehouse, taking up too much of my staff staffs time for the other store that we needed to move it out and make it a dedicated business. So that’s when we decided to launch cash tactical as a standalone business. We’ve got our first building in 2017. And then with the idea that we were going to focus on the law enforcement, first responder market with medical supplies and uniforms. We’ve just grown from there.
And that’s still a part of your business today. But there’s actually quite a bit more to it isn’t there?
Yeah, in addition to the to the uniform supply, the boots, all that type of things for law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, those groups. We do also have a full counting section of all fishing section, hiking backpacks, hunting section, including firearms, and we basically expanded to be the the one stop shop for the outdoor adventure seeker in Regina.
Yep. And if I recall correctly, you guys moved into a new building. I two years ago, 18 months ago.
It was actually may 1 of 2020. So we’re we’re coming up on on one.
Yeah. Wait, did you say 2022?
One year, so last year was very busy because we was the full transitional year going going from the old place to the new place and renovations on the new building. It was a very hectic year.
No kidding. How many square feet do you have now?
We now have 17,000 square feet. That is fluids a training center that where we do, pal and our pal courses for firearms licenses. We also do stop the bleed courses in there for which is a short course for emergency traumatic bleeding issues. Then we’ve got our large sale floor, there’s there’s over 10,000 square feet of sale floor in the building, plus our warehouse.
Oh, leave. Okay. Yeah, so you’ve got a huge, huge building. So I would think, given that you are in partially in business to serve that first responder market, like you guys must be feel really safe in your building, law enforcement coming and going all day first responders coming and going throughout the day, that must be like, somewhat nice and secure.
Yeah, it’s it’s really nice when your customers are almost like a built in security system.
But you know, there’s also something to be said for that relationship that you would have with many of the law enforcement as well. Right. Like, becomes a personal relationship, too.
Yeah, absolutely. And, and I know in the past, when you have people coming in, they’re looking for that particular, hard to get item that you just can’t find, and nowhere else in southern Saskatchewan carries it and then all of a sudden, they find out that cash tactical does and then all their friends are coming in to get the same items. So we do see that quite regularly, that we build relationships in that regard.
Perfect. Okay, so let’s leave the law enforcement aside for a second. And let’s really dig into how you serve the community. And I’ll say the general public. So I mean, you guys have everything under the sun when it comes to outdoor adventure. Let’s talk a little bit about that. And how do you know like, what to bring in store what’s gonna sell? What does that process look like for you?
Well, a lot of it. It’s conversations with our customers like I, I spend a fair bit of time even though I may not be on the front counter or the front till I make sure that when people are coming in that they’re seeing myself as the owner has the ability to have conversations with me. And that’s how I kind of feel out what demand there is for certain products. And you start to see that there’s enough people asking for a particular item, then in my process of going out to buying shows and all that sort of stuff, then I start seeking out that I basically follow what the customer demands. And a good example of that is Airsoft, we we really became the only bricks and mortar airsoft store in Saskatchewan, because the local airsoft support community came in and supported us. And even though that wasn’t on the original business plan, we clearly pivoted and we’ve, we’ve had to pivot multiple times due to issues beyond our control a lot of it doing dealing with legislation. And so so we are constantly willing to pivot and try new avenues to make sure that even though we may be a niche store, that we can serve six or seven different niches and be successful as a whole.
So, you know, I have to ask this question. So if I was to Google Airsoft, or some of the outdoor gear, is that one of the ways that you find that you’re attracting customers? Or again, is it word of mouth? What happens that way?
Well, Googling airsoft in Saskatchewan will take you to cash practical, we are really the the only place that comes up for airsoft store in Saskatchewan. And, you know, it drives a lot of traffic to us. We’ve, I’ve been monitoring our our Google statistics, and they are moving every month. So that’s a that’s a good thing.
It’s a moving target. I will absolutely agree with that.
Well, sometimes you got trouble to keep up with what everything means because there’s a change, a change in how they report things. And well now what does this mean? And unless you’re, unless you’re on top of it every single days, times a year, you’re at a loss to figure out what it means but basically, as long as you’re turning upwards, that’s that’s a good thing for me.
Exactly. So you started back in two Sep 2017 With Cache Tactical, you know, just retail has been through the wringer if you look at these last six years, including COVID. So, like, I’ve tried to envision that thinking, when you sat back and said, hey, you know what, I want to move into a 17,000 square foot footprint. And oh, yeah, we’re just nicely coming out of COVID. Like, what? What the heck are you drinking that night?
Well see the interest interesting thing for my industry is a COVID really drove people to seek the outdoors and to seek the adventure and do it locally. And so it basically was a good way to drive new traffic to us, because people weren’t going on these elaborate vacations to Italy because they couldn’t fly. But, but they sure could head out to one of the provincial parks or or the national park wherever and enjoy the outdoors, they could go hunting, they could go fishing because there’s, you know, not much better way to socially distance during a pandemic. And so it really drove a lot of traffic our way and actually was a big help in being able to get us into this bigger buildings so that we can serve Regina better.
Yep. And let’s dig into some of those details like what do you actually offer because the outdoors is everything from airsoft to I don’t know dog leashes? Like tell us about your your offering. What does that look like Aaron?
Well, we have camping section that would cover tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, cooking stoves, all that type of product, basically anything that you need to gear up to go out for a weekend to the park. We’ve also got to believe it or not coffee.
That’s a requirement if I’m going camping.
Yeah, the coffee is found right in our camping section. But the unique thing about the coffee that we carry is they’re from veteran owned companies and portions of proceeds go back to veterans charities. So we carry both black rifle coffee and arrowhead coffee, both which are roasted and brewed in Canada, both supporting veterans, which goes back to the whole principle of of what our customer base is and who we want to support as a beginner.
Yep, yeah, exactly.
Moving towards the back of our store, we’ve got a whole fishing section. You know, rods, reels, Luers everything summer fishing, winter fishing. We’ve got the whole selection here. We’ve got all your your hunting accessories, we’ve got including the firearms and ammunition scopes, all that type of thing. Safety gear is a good part of the store. So we’ve got all your basic medical supplies but also things that you can’t get anywhere else in in Regina like tourniquets, and you know, bloodstock gauze and you know sort of specialty items that are really good for the different groups of customers that we have and we can’t get anywhere else. We we also have a large apparel section, our our flagship apparel line is 511 tactical, and whether you’ve heard of them or not. They have the contract for that federal government law enforcement in the United States for pants. A lot of law enforcement in Canada were Pants made by 511 tactical and we are the southern Saskatchewan dealer for them. But they have the uniform and professional side of their line. But they have a full consumer line through with logo wear shirts and and shoes and backpacks you know the whole the whole line and we carry that all
How many items do you have in store do you know?
I am I know on my website I’m over 6000 skews in the store is probably going to be a little bit more than that. And it gets it keeps us I’ve got basically one person that the full thing that she does is is data entry on on products coming in because we’ve got so much product coming through the door.
Yeah, exactly. So none of that is able to be also automated. So it’s not like you can scan something and it recognizes that you just got, you know, 105 11 shirts kind of thing.
Well, the second time it comes in, it can be automated. The first time it comes in, all all of those need to be built manually item descriptions in the system. And once once all of that is built, then it’s simple. The next time the same product comes in, it’s just scan the barcode, and it’s into the system.
So okay, so that’s interesting, because that means that you’ve got somebody working, whether it’s full time or part time, and that many new items coming into the store that, you know, she, besides the scanning, she still has to keep that up to date.
Well, and that’s the thing with a building the size of ours, we’re working to fill it. So I’m adding new product lines all the time. I know, yesterday, I was dealing with two new companies. And they’re, they’re big companies that would that’s focused on law enforcement products. And so that’s two new dealer apps that were getting in we were adding, you know, we’re adding new companies every month that we carry to expand our product line and, and make sure that we are fulfilling the needs of our customer base.
Yeah. So Aaron, what keeps you going? Because 6000 products on your website? How many ever more in store? Like that’s, I don’t know, like when I when I think about it, just from my own perspective, it starts to feel a little bit overwhelming if I ever had to deal with 6000 of anything. So what keeps you going on either the good days or the hard days?
Well, I enjoy a challenge. Yeah. So if it was just, you know, that routine, same thing over, you know, replenishment only. Personally, I would find that boring. And I like to grow and develop ideas. And, you know, like I am, I am planning on adding a full custom shop doors or store. So so that’s another area that I’m working on developing right now. So that that will allow you to get your 511 shirt from me, and then get your logo embroidered on it all in a one stop shop. Okay, and part of our customer shop is going to be include laser engraving and, and custom tailoring and that type of thing. We may even get into custom manufacturing of products. The idea is I’m always looking for the the next thing that the the company is doing my my ideas, I always, I’m always looking at the next thing, and then I get my staff to take care of the current thing. And then that’s how, so once once the staff can handle the current thing, and then we move on to the next thing. And Bill.
Yeah. So how do your staff respond to that when there’s constant change? And, you know, new things they need to keep track of? How are they responding to that?
They’re a good crew. I, I’m, I’m sure there’s there’s probably some thought of Oh, no, here’s another thing from Aaron. But you know, they’re, they’re a good crew, and they can keep up with, with my demands that I put on them, you know, and and the nice thing about it is that I’ve got longevity in my employees, like I’ve, I don’t have a lot of turnover, and that really helps giving given the stability to these ideas. So so there’s that it’s almost like an institutional knowledge that that stuff can just keep on going. And then as you move on to new items, yes.
Well, and that that corporate knowledge or that corporate history, that in invaluable, because when you can, can work with somebody on a long term basis, even the contribution that they’re able to give back. So here’s Aaron with his newest idea. And here’s the employee saying, Okay, wait a second, you know, here’s why I think it might work. Here’s why I think it might not, because when it’s somebody brand new, they’re not going to be comfortable saying I do crazy. We’re a long term employee is going to be much more comfortable saying something like that, right. Yeah. You know, I have a gal who I’ve been working with for a couple of years now and she has a term for all of my ideas. Your employees may have a similar term and they’ve just never shared it with you. But she talks about BB isms. And so Oh, that’s another BB isn’t? And it’s like, oh, and you know, it’s totally said in jest, but it’s it’s how I say things or how I present things. And you know, it’s not something she can go and Google, it’s Oh, okay, that’s a barbarism. I had no idea that you had that term. Oh, yes. You shared it a few times. Okay, so tell me about the future. What is the future? You’ve talked about the customer shop? Does the customer shop means more square footage? Where do you see retail going? Because, as you already talked about, you’ve got some big bucks competitors. And you’ve got some tough online competitors. So what keeps the local customer coming to you in the future?
Well, one of the big things is a lot of the product we we carry, being able to put it in your hands, is the is a major selling point. And now we do have a full online store, we we are growing that side of the business, too, we ship products all over Canada and into the territories. The so we’re definitely working on our expand our reach outside of the physical walls of the building. But at the at the same point, there’s something that online commerce doesn’t give it takes away. It’s kind of like the old argument of are you going to read a physical book, are you going to read a Kindle and the Kindle, take something away from from the experience. And you know, it’s the same thing in the store, you can go and shop for a backpack, anywhere online, but you can’t put it on. While you’re sitting at the computer, you can’t get the advice of while you may, you might not need doc for your purpose, because we’re here with a wealth of knowledge that we know how these get used on an average person. And then they’ll say, Well, you what you’re telling me you’re using whatever product for you might be better off going with this product instead. And you get that, that customer service and that knowledge there that you would never ever get from an E commerce. So yes, ecommerce is growing, and it’s going to continue to grow probably exponentially for a number of years. But you I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of that actual retail experience, because there’s benefits to it that eat EComm to not compete with
Exactly. And I think there’s another side to that challenge is we’ve got some demographics now who they’re not concerned about, you know, seeing it, touching it, feeling it, they’ll order it online, if they don’t like it, they’ll send it back. So they’re willing to take that additional time, where there’s still a solid group, who they do they want to touch it, they want to feel it, they want to talk to somebody about it. And just last Thursday, I was shopping for an item, I spent six hours driving to all of the different locations where I thought I might find that particular item. And there wasn’t a single location in Regina that had an unboxed item that I could touch and feel and test. And so in the end, I had to order it online. It’ll come in a couple of weeks, I’ll test it and decide before my you know, exchange period is up whether or not I keep it. And I think that’s one of the challenges for both us as the general public. But for as business owners, how much do I bring in store so that people can touch and feel versus how much is on my website? Because if I’m coming in, and I’m going to try on some 511 I want to try it in my size. I don’t want to guess that, okay, this is a large and medium would fit me or vice versa. So that’s one of the challenges and how do you think you’ll you’ll manage something like that?
Well, you know, it’s the whole online side of things like you’re saying that you ordered this and then you’ll decide whether you like it. The problem is you decide you didn’t like it. Now you’ve paid for shipping to come to you and you are going to pay for shipping to go back. And now you’ve got sunk money there. So that’s that’s why I think that that retail is far from dead. You know, there is going to be always that growth on EECOM and anyone in my space needs to be in EECOM however, I don’t Think that retail is dead and, or will die in my lifetime?
No, I don’t think it will either. And in fact, I would argue that the let’s just say Gen Z, as they get 10 years older, and now they’re 35 or 10 years older, and now they’re 45, I think they’re going to start to see some value in the touch in the field. It’s right now that, you know, everything is disposable to them. They want it cheap, they want it fast, right? They’ve got a little bit of disposable income. They’re looking for a very different experience where you know, 3545 55 you’re looking for, for quality, you’re looking for something that you can actually try on. And I think that makes a huge difference.
You know, go ahead, that reminds me I in my personal life, I do blacksmithing as a hobby, and my personal life,
Wait a second.
When I first told my aunt, that I was getting into blacksmithing and knifemaking, her exact comment to me, she says, Well, why would you do that when you can go to Walmart and buy a night for $10? That’s not the point. I don’t want a $10 knife.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. You don’t want the $10 knife. And again, it’s about the experience. It’s about the craftsmanship. It’s about the quality behind what you can make yourself. And you just like last week, last week’s guest. He’s still doing woodworking. Well, yeah, I can go to Walmart or I can go to Ikea, and I can buy something. But it’s not the right size. It’s not the right color. The craftsmanship isn’t there, it falls apart, you know, six months later. And that’s we’re losing that, right? In so many cases, I think we’re losing that element. And I’m a big believer that we’re actually going to see a rebound, where people will start to appreciate quality versus just convenience, because that’s what it is right now is it’s it’s convenient to shop online. And if I can shop locally, at two o’clock in the morning, I’m just as likely to do that. So it’s a good thing. Aaron, is there anything else that you’d like to share with our audience? Before we wrap up today?
Ah, you know, I guess it’s, it’s been an interesting roller coaster here. Since we’ve started this business. I know, we definitely have seen some challenges like we’ve worked through, a lot of those can tend to be regulatory, but we’ve even seen issues with with Google with Facebook, where they don’t like particular products, for one reason or another. And so that does lead to challenges for us. And so that’s, I mean, that’s another reason why, why retail is still going to thrive locally, is because a lot of products are not welcomed by the mega companies like like Facebook, Instagram, Google, all those types of things. So I mean, that’s, that’s something that we can that we can offer that you don’t get overwhelmed with on online.
Yeah, exactly. I agree with you, 100%. And I find it so interesting. Of course, you and I have had a few conversations ahead of time. I find it so interesting, that big brother has decided what our sins are in society. And you know, government has a tendency to stick their foot in there probably a little bit too often. And now we have the Googles and Facebooks of the world doing it too. So it it adds to the list of challenges that apparently you’d like to tackle. So, yeah, kudos to you. There’s lots of lots of folks who wouldn’t talk about one. Awesome. All right, Aaron, just as we wrap up, but I’ll get you to do is share with everyone who’s listening, how they can find you. Where are you? Where are you online? Tell us a little bit about that information.
Okay, well, our physical store located in Regina right in the warehouse district, corner of seventh and corner Mall. The actual address is 217 6/7 Avenue. Our website is www.cachetactical.ca. And that is path spelled ca ch E and we are on socials. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all under the name cache tactical
Awesome. Well that is fantastic. And what would someone Google to find you?
They would Google Cache Tactical and or Outdoor Adventure in Regina.
Exactly. That is perfect. All right, Aaron, thanks very much for joining us today to talk about Cache tactical and some of the challenges that you’re willingly taking on. On that we’re having having me on. Absolutely. On that note, if you would like to sell your story, then you need to tell your story and there’s no better place to start than being a guest on The Secret Life show. If you would like to be a guest, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram pages at abovethefold.ca. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, Google girl and local business cheerleader. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.