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Gun store opens with fanfare, sales in Clinton

 Rob Felding speaks with Jonathan Harper, the small arms expert at Whidbey Arms. The gun store recently opened at Ken’s Korner in Clinton.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Rob Felding speaks with Jonathan Harper, the small arms expert at Whidbey Arms. The gun store recently opened at Ken’s Korner in Clinton.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

All the online bluster of protesting the Whidbey Arms gun store disappeared like smoke from the barrel when it opened Tuesday.

Dozens of shoppers filed into the small store in Clinton. They bought novelty shirts like "I love guns & coffee" in the style of the Starbucks logo and "Killin' Zombies" like Dunkin’ Donuts.

Robert Boenish, a Clinton resident, purchased the first gun from Whidbey Arms, a 9 mm Smith & Wesson, 30 minutes after the store opened its doors. Ben Watanabe / The Record | This holstered handgun was on the hip of Jonathan Harper, an employee at Whidbey Arms.

"I'm one of those who used to hunt on the way to school," Boenish said. "I think it's great to have a local shop. Instead of having to go over town, I'd rather buy here."

He planned to visit the store to buy ammunition, cleaning supplies, targets and reloading supplies. The shirts were a nice touch, he said, and may suit his sons.

Gun bags, holsters and cleaning supplies are for sale. And in addition to the gun paraphernalia, there are guns, lots of guns. Rifles mounted on the wall behind the register range from shotguns to semiautomatic rifles. In the display case rest handguns from a Smith & Wesson to a 9 mm Ruger.

Protesters were nowhere to be seen. But Jim Childers, Whidbey Arms' owner, was ready for them. Not in the Old West style where he'd kick them out of the shop, but Childers had coffee, bagels, cookies and banana bread out for any would-be detractors and for customers.

Lots of residents took in the new shop as soon as it opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Many of them were longtime gun owners and shooters. A few were members of the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club.

Rob Felding, one of the store's perusers and a gun club member, eyed ammunition. His desires were not isolated. Fellow early-bird ammo hunter Gary Formhals was there to buy bullets. Shopping locally and convenience are key factors in why Felding and Formhals plan to purchase rounds from Whidbey Arms.

"I'm not a hunter," Felding said. "I just enjoy shooting. It's fun."

"I'll try and support them. They have overhead, and they have to stay in business."

Swiping cards and registering guns came as no surprise to busy sales associate Charlotte "Charlie" Harper. Since word got out that Childers was opening the gun store, calls have been frequent and supportive, she said.

"We've had people driving by all week wondering when we're opening," Harper said.

Jonathan Harper, her husband and the store's small arms expert, worked the counter answering questions, grabbing ammo and taking down special requests for arms and ammunition.

The store also sells metalwork shaped like fish, antlers, trees and other wildlife.

For one of the patrons, any controversy about the gun store is overblown. And the right to buy a firearm should stay, he said.

"If you don't want a gun, you don't have to own a gun," Felding said. "But you should have the right."

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