When I planned my visit to FishUSA in Fairview Township, I expected to hear about how it reflects the world-renowned fishing opportunities in Erie County.
What I found is that though FishUSA does capitalize on its prime location in the heart of “Steelhead Alley,” it actually serves a national and even international customer base.
FishUSA operates a small retail shop at its West Ridge Road headquarters, but the true business is in the vast warehouse behind it – and in the technology that keeps its website, www.fishusa.com, drawing clicks and customers from near and far.
FishUSA isn’t looking to compete with the bait and tackle shops that dot Erie County, says Dan Pastore, the company’s founder and president. It has its own angle, and its own aim: to dominate the national online market for fishing tackle and related equipment.
For FishUSA, this means carving out an e-commerce niche that separates it from the larger players in the national market, like Field & Stream, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. What FishUSA can offer that the big chains can’t is specialization, Pastore says. A company that focuses solely on fishing can better answer customers’ questions and concerns, more so than a company that also sells hunting gear and camping equipment.
Pastore sees this as an area for future growth in his company – and he knows a little something about growth. FishUSA has only grown since it was launched in 2000. In fact, the company started this year with 13 more employees than it had the previous year.
As the retail industry moves away from brick-and-mortar stores and resettles itself online, Pastore has positioned his company to be a leader in not fishing, but in e-commerce strategy.
“It’s not like how it was where every town needs a mall,” he says. “Only a few online companies will be needed to dominate the market.”
About FishUSA: The company grew out of FishErie.com, a forum for Erie County anglers that Pastore had helped launch from Erie.net, a groundbreaking internet service that he co-founded in the 1990s. Today, FishUSA can count itself as one of three leading national online retailers of fishing equipment. A West Coast-based company specializes in bass, an East Coast company specializes in saltwater fish, and FishUSA covers the rest – including ice fishing, steelhead, walleye and fly fishing. Because the company writes its own code and manages its own servers for its website, it employs programmers, in addition to offering positions in marketing and customer service as well as in the warehouse.
Why Erie County? There’s more to location than proximity to popular fishing spots. For FishUSA, location means an advantage in logistics. The company can ship to locations as far as the upper Midwest, Maine or Virginia in two days – and that’s a service that customers value. In addition, Erie County offers a relatively low cost of living, Pastore says.
Challenges in Erie County: FishUSA, which has its eye on expansion, has had difficulty finding funding assistance Pastore says. The process of seeking aid from the many economic development groups has been frustrating. In addition, Pastore says he has had difficulty finding spacious, modern buildings that could accommodate his growing company. And he also at times has found it challenging to hire programmers, who often flock instead to the larger corporations in the region.
Fast fact: On a busy day, FishUSA has seen as many as 400 people shopping on its site at one time, Pastore says.
Coming up next week: We visit All-American Hose in Union City.