Adapting to the changing tides of business-Little Forks Outfitters

Robert “Bo” Brines has been watching business since he was a kid in the 60s.

“Main Street used to be the center,” Brines said. “… Dow Chemical pays on Thursday nights and you can barely walk up and down Main Street.” Ten years later, Brines began working for his father’s business, Bob Brines Office Supply. Then came the shop in town.

“The city lost Sears, JC Penney – anchors down here. Suddenly, there were many empty shops,” he said.
Robert “Bo” Brines opened Little Forks Outfitters in 1995.
Of the City Development Authority it was just built at that time. As the DDA began ramping up efforts to help the city thrive, Brines used his own business sense.

“I went out west fishing and fishing with my friends, hanging out in the Yellowstone area. I saw stores like this,” he said, motioning to his store. “And I knew there was nothing like this back here.”

Brines noticed other signs that supported his business idea. Fly fishing saw a boom in popularity from the movie, “A River Runs Through It,” leading Orvis, an outdoor retailer specializing in fly fishing, to look for vendors to partner with.

“They sold mailing lists, so they had a good idea of ​​marketing to support,” Brines said. “They thought that the Midland, Saginaw, Bay would support a sale well. … Looking around the Tri-Cities, the city of Midland was the only place that aspired to that level.”
Little Forks Outfitters is located in downtown Midland at 143 E. Main Street.
When Carl Gerstacker was building the DDA, they were looking for specialty stores like an Orvis store. “He mentioned it by his name, and I took it as a sign,” Brines said.

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In 1995, Brines was opened Small Standing Small at 143 E. Main Street. He has owned the house for almost 20 years – a decision he is happy with. “I bought it from a man who was the owner of the second shoe store. I really embraced the history of the town.”

Even now, the town continues to change. In 2018, the city lights were replaced with stop signs to limit walking. “Downtown Midland has a vision of being a pedestrian-friendly, community-oriented place. That’s really the model they’re going for, and they’re really sticking to it,” Brines said.

He believes the sidewalks are a step in the right direction as well. “People come down to just hang out. They will come not only in the evenings when there are events, but any time you can walk outside and there are people. In the last fifteen to twenty years, that has not always happened.

Brines has been involved with the DDA for about 20 years. Since the city manager appoints members of the board, there must be a certain level of membership. Brines appreciates input from financial professionals, city residents, property owners, and business owners.

Brines has been involved with the DDA for about 20 years. He has been on the board of the Michigan Retailers Association since 2012.
“They make sure that different voices in the city can be heard,” he said. … There are other aspects of the whole city of business experience that I think can be very useful. A lot of good money was made.”

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While Brines believes downtown Midland has a good mix of businesses, he also sees opportunities downtown should have: a bakery, library, family breakfast area, and entertainment options that like a movie theater or a club.
Little Forks has a wide range of gear for the outdoor enthusiast, including big names like Patagonia, Yeti and Orvis.
“Getting the right people to do that is very important,” Brines said. “I’ve spent thirty years building this, and that’s what it takes. It can’t be just a half-hearted opinion without being completely honest about it.”

In business, there are always new challenges. For local brick-and-mortar businesses, online shopping is one. “The hope is that people want to be able to look at my research if they want, and most people are making their decisions and thinking about what they need before they come in,” he said. said Brines. “… If you don’t understand and get on the web, you’re not in the game.”

Brines worked to publicize their findings online. While they have marked progress in recent years, sorting through all the images, information, and research is no small task. “To take it to the next level, the information management behind the scenes is very powerful.”

Despite the challenges, Little Forks continues to be a staple in the community, even after 28 years. Brines credits her success to her passion for the outdoors and her commitment to learning.
Because of Brines’ passion for fishing, Little Forks boasts an impressive selection of fishing products.
“I’m really a student of not only the sports we support, but I’m also trying to pay attention and learn everything.” I can about being a good businessman and a good community member,” Brines said. “I talk to a lot of people who are interested in doing business with us because they know I’ve really tried to do my part in helping the community be a better place.”

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He also serves as a member of the board of directors Michigan Retailers Association, where he was chairman from 2020-2022. Brines said he learned a lot from his fellow board members, “We have the CFO from Meijer, the general council from Kroger, and the regional vice president from Target. The family also has many businesses. It’s a really nice ward to work with.”

The Michigan Retailers Association offers members credit card processing, insurance, legal reporting, and more. “It was a class act. The staff is amazing. … I am proud to be with them.”

“When the store is busy and things are moving and people are happy and smiling, there’s no better feeling,” Brines said.
Brines is considering expanding his business, but he is also satisfied with the way he does business. He is excited to see more businesses moving into town.

“I think the best is yet to come for the city,” Brines said. “I think Midland is a great community to do business in. We have a strong economic engine with a lot of good jobs and good, strong, family ties.


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