“We’ve been friends for many years, and I’m glad we could stay next to each other,” Gary Merriman, the owner The Fish Hawk, said of Chuck’s Firearms.
The two sporting businesses have operated side-by-side in Buckhead for over 40 years, and have stuck together through two relocations—the latest in March as they make way for a condo tower.
They both moved from Buckhead Avenue to Peachtree Road in 2006 into adjacent suites with identical storefronts. In March, they had to move again to Miami Circle so a high-rise condo could be built.
Merriman said Miami Circle has, so far, been better for the business, than the Buckhead Village, which is bordered by Roswell, Peachtree, Paces Ferry and Pharr Roads.
“Peachtree Road was great for a lot of years, but there got to be too much construction,” Merriman said.
The 12-story condo building that will eventually take the place of the small stores on the 3000 block of Peachtree Road is being by built by The Loudermilk Companies, presided over by Robin Loudermilk, the son of Charlie Loudermilk, an Atlanta businessman that founded Aaron’s Inc.
The building is named after the elder Loudermilk and called The Charles, located across the street from Charlie Loudermilk Park, which Robin Loudermilk helped renovate and name after his father.
“It’s a great place for a condominium, and it will be unique for the area since the area since they aren’t any others around,” Robin Loudermilk said.
The building will have street-level retail, but occupants have not been announced yet. The Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams furniture store is not owned by The Loudermilk Companies and will remain, Robin Loudermilk said.
The block of stores, which also includes a temporary apartment leasing office, will be demolished within the next month, he said.
Across the street from The Charles and next to the Buckhead Theatre, which is owned by Charlie Loudermilk, a high-rise apartment building is being built by The Hanover Co.
Robin Loudermilk was the landlord for the both The Fish Hawk and Chuck’s Firearms, having helped them find a space after they had to leave Buckhead Avenue.
While The Fish Hawk and Chuck’s Firearms had to move out of their Buckhead Avenue spaces abruptly, Merriman said Robin Loudermilk gave them plenty of notice that their buildings would be demolished to build The Charles.
“The Buckhead Avenue move was a sudden shock,” Merriman said. “We were the sacrificial lamb,” he said.
Merriman, who opened The Fish Hawk in 1974, said having less traffic congestion in the area and being able to offer more parking for his customers make Miami Circle a better location. They have also seen a big uptick in the amount of customers visiting after 4 p.m. now that they have to go through less rush-hour traffic.
Over the years on Peachtree Road, Merriman said he and others who worked in the shop began referring to the Buckhead Triangle, which is now known as Charlie Loudermilk Park, as the “Buckhead Death Triangle.”
“I’m glad to be away from the Buckhead Triangle,” he said.
While it was disappointing to have to move, Jim Hinsdale, the owner of Chuck’s Firearms, also said Miami Circle is better for similar reasons.
“Everyone has been very pleased with how the store has come out,” Hinsdale said. “It’s very similar to the other store,” he said.
Having owned a business in the Buckhead Village for over 40 years, Merriman has seen the area change substantially, and became bothered by the uptick in construction projects.
“It has gone from feeling like a small town to feeling like a big city like New York,” Merriman said.
Miami Circle also has a local, small town feel Buckhead Village had decades ago, he said.
“Most of the other businesses are local businesses, like how Buckhead was years ago,” he said.
The Fish Hawk has been next to Chuck’s Firearms the entire time it has been open, and Chuck’s opened only three years before Merriman opened his fishing supply shop.
Their customers frequently call the wrong shop because they think they are owned by the same people, and some customers also thought they were connected and they could go between the two.
Now that they are in Miami Circle, they are not in adjacent buildings, but are located a few hundred feet from each other. Both owners said they are happy they were able to find two vacancies so close to each other. Chuck’s Firearms is now located 761 Miami Circle and The Fish Hawk at 764 Miami Circle.
“While we couldn’t work it out to be together, this has worked out very well,” Hinsdale said.
Chuck’s Firearms was founded by Chuck Lester in 1971, but he retired in 1989, leaving his son Jack to run the store. Hinsdale later bought it in 2015, but Jack Lester is also still working there.
Chuck’s sells mostly vintage and luxury guns, Hinsdale said, and they sell much less handguns than most other gun stores. Because a lot of their customers are hunters, many of them are The Fish Hawk’s customers as well.
“A lot hunters are fishers and a lot fishers are hunters,” Hinsdale said. “Our customers are their customers,” he said while another employee in the store cleaned and repaired an old military rifle.
The store has been in the area so long, they have amassed loyal customers, some who come back even after they move away when they visit Atlanta.
“Because it’s grown up in this area, it’s become a destination store,” Hinsdale said.
Their new landlord, Bill Shippen, is also a customer of the store, Hinsdale said.
The stores moved in early March, a couple weeks before a fire lit underneath I-85 would collapse the major artery, crippling the Buckhead area. The collapse was an obstacle that challenged the store in their early days, Hinsdale said, but after that, customers have adjusted well to the move and seem to also like the new location better.