2017 Bravo! Entrepreneur — Fort Collins

Quinlan’s winning hand is full of Jax 2017 Bravo! Entrepreneur — Fort Collins

Jim Quinlan got a taste of retail while running Ames Surplus, his parents’ military surplus store in Ames, Iowa. At 18, he was the store manager and sole employee, but by that time he’d had six years of experience in the store. He was ringing up customer purchases at age 12.

Today, he helms Jax Mercantile, with six stores along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Broomfield. The seventh is in Ames, which makes perfect sense since that is where it all started.

After three years of working at the family business, Quinlan moved west to Fort Collins and opened Rocky Mountain Surplus, on the corner of College Avenue and Jefferson Street, and again was the sole employee. Further north on College, on the edge of the Dreher family’s pickle farm, stood his main competitor, Jax. In 1988, Jax’s owners announced they were closing up shop.

Quinlan deliberated about purchasing the business for a few months. He juggled numbers. He negotiated with the prior owners. And then he decided to make it happen.

In the fall of 1988, Jax reopened, this time with Quinlan standing behind the register. In 2001, he acquired another retail property that became Jax Ranch & Home, adding new product categories and reaching a whole new customer. The original Jax Outdoor Gear location now houses a five-building campus, with a sixth in the planning phase. That expansion, the new bicycle department, is slated to open in spring 2018.

There is no secret to the store’s success; it boils down to some very simple principles.

“We try to provide a diverse selection of quality products at fair prices every day,” Quinlan said. “We do it with staff who are friendly, informed and offer a high level of customer service.”

This philosophy has made Jax the go-to destination for ranch supplies and sporting goods and clothing. Oh, and military surplus.

The business’ growth has been driven by the people who work there. For a long time, with just the two Fort Collins stores, growth opportunities were limited and Quinlan saw talented and dedicated staff leave to pursue other challenges. In 2008, the Loveland store opened; the first to offer all product categories in one location. Since then, a new store has opened every two to three years. Last summer, Jax opened its largest store yet in Broomfield, in an old 90,000-square-foot space that had been a Kmart.

“Opening more stores and offering more opportunities became a driving influence to provide a lot of great people with new opportunities,” Quinlan said, adding that right now, the focus is on “doing what we do, but doing it better.”

Click here to read about all 2017 Bravo! Entrepreneur honorees.

Jim Quinlan got a taste of retail while running Ames Surplus, his parents’ military surplus store in Ames, Iowa. At 18, he was the store manager and sole employee, but by that time he’d had six years of experience in the store. He was ringing up customer purchases at age 12.

Today, he helms Jax Mercantile, with six stores along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Broomfield. The seventh is in Ames, which makes perfect sense since that is where it all started.

After three years of working at the family business, Quinlan moved west to Fort Collins and opened Rocky Mountain Surplus, on the corner of College Avenue and Jefferson Street, and again was the sole employee. Further north on College, on the edge of the Dreher family’s pickle farm, stood his main competitor, Jax. In 1988, Jax’s owners announced they were closing up shop.

Quinlan deliberated about purchasing the business for a few months. He juggled numbers. He negotiated with the prior owners. And then he decided to make it happen.

In the fall of 1988, Jax reopened, this time with Quinlan standing behind the register. In 2001, he acquired another retail property that became Jax Ranch & Home, adding new product categories and reaching a whole new customer. The original Jax Outdoor Gear location…