After abrupt change, Janesville business is making a successful transition
Taxidermy legend John Rinehart sauntered into Rinehart Targets, a business he founded in 1999, and scraped his name off the door.
“He said he was ready to retire; we protested and asked for a couple of years while we finished college,” recalls James McGovern, Rinehart’s son in law.
“He said, ‘I’m ready to retire today. Take it, or I’m going to sell it.’”
That was in 2005, and the young couple took over management of the Janesville company that produces targets for bow hunters and competitive archers.
It’s been a wild ride—one that gives new meaning to on-the-job training. It’s also been a success, as the company has posted five years of sales growth by expanding an existing market and zeroing in on a new one.
“A lot has happened, and we had to learn fast, but it’s been a great five years,” James McGovern said.
“We’ve been up the last five years, and not a lot of companies can say that.”
Not bad for a couple who in late 2004 were working toward degrees at UW-Whitewater: he in elementary education, she in business.
He was working at a convenience store in Edgerton, and she was working at a hotel in Stoughton. They were sharing an apartment with other people and were ready for a change.
“We wanted a place of our own—no roommates—so we did this spread sheet presentation for her dad about how we were going to run his traveling archery school for $8 an hour apiece,” McGovern said.
That was all well and good until Rinehart offered them the management of the business in 2005.
The company’s hallmark is the self-healing foam and locking inserts it uses in its 70 or so 3-D targets.
When the McGoverns took over, Rinehart Targets was selling factory-direct to archery clubs.
“That was all we did, but it limited us and didn’t present a lot of growth opportunities,” McGovern said.
So the company targeted the backyard market and the retailers across the country that serve it. Through a series of fits and starts, the company finally found successful sales, production and distribution models to serve big box retailers and small independent stores across the country.
About 45 percent of the company’s business is now on the retail side. Major national accounts include Bass Pro, Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Academy Sports.
Rinehart also has independent sales reps across the country who sell to smaller stores. Locally, the true-to-life targets are sold at Hunt-n-Gear in Milton.
In 2008, Rinehart exhausted its lease on Jackson Street and bought a 17,000-square-foot facility on Beloit Avenue. In accepting a 10-year, $125,000 forgivable loan from the city, the company agreed to employ at least 13 people and create five positions by the end of this year.
The company, still owned by John Rinehart, now has 23 employees and two production shifts.
The increase in retail business is forcing the McGoverns to modify the building’s layout. Serving several national retailers requires different production and shipping methods.
“This building is working out great,” McGovern said. “But our issue is really with storage.
“We expect continued growth because we’ve only scratched the surface of what the market can hold.”
Field & Stream magazine recently tabbed Rinehart’s RhinoBlock Target as “Best of the Best” among new hunting products. Forty-seven Field & Stream testers in 11 states and providences evaluated more than 250 pieces of sporting gear to make the awards.
The RhinoBlock was one of only four winners in the archery category and the only archery target to win the award.
“The thing about our product is the material,” McGovern said. “Ours is second to none and makes this company what it is.”
McGovern is uncertain about finishing his degree work. He’s 32 credits short of one degree and 33 away from another.
“Even with everything that was going on with this business, Barbara was able to graduate in December 2008,” McGovern said. “What she was able to do was incredible, but that’s the way she is.
“No matter what I dream up, Barbara is the one that makes it happen.”