Verona Gun Safe is a small local business owned by a U.S. Army Veteran and gunsmith, Shawn Jones, Verona Borough Police Officer Anthony Ogline and a Software Engineer, Alexander Corn. The store, a Gold Designated Sustainable Small Business, is managed by Alex’s wife, Duygu, a civil and environmental engineer working with Ethos Collaborative, a local engineering company.
– What is a macro trend driving businesses’ uptake of sustainability that all organizations should be watching for their own interests?
People are supporting the small business and consciously shopping local! Gun business is changing rapidly and mom and pop shops are relying more and more on internet purchases and transfers. Guns are cheaper on the internet and we cannot compete with those prices and stay open. We have been very up front about our margins to our customers; they surprised us by being alright with paying a bit more to support us as a small business. We are definitely very grateful and optimistic about our store’s future.
– What are some reasons that buying local is beneficial to Verona Gun Safe rather than buying online?
Can you imagine how much packaging material, fuel, paper etc. is used just for shipping these goods? We love buying local and doing inventory swaps with nearby gun retailers! We make better connections. While we do have national wholesalers from where we get brand new firearms, used guns are just as good as new guns quality-wise—but they are 50% of the price.
If our customers want a particular item, we call other area shops first rather than going online to find the item. We’re not necessarily making a lot of money but we want to keep the integrity of the business.
We are trying to modernize the notion of a gun shop. The owners want to open up the understanding of guns and knowledge to a greener and more socially aware audience.
– Please share one or two examples of how Verona Gun Safe is integrating sustainable practices relative to resource conservation, employee care, or operational efficiencies and savings.
We try to keep the shop operations sustainable with using LEDs and relying heavily on natural ventilation when we can. As a result of our energy retrofit, we are spending ~35% less on shop operations than we used to. LED lights by themselves saved $743 just this year.
Our business also relies on reuse of materials. I can’t remember the last time we bought or trashed packaging materials. We reuse every piece of packaging we receive, and recycle what we can’t. We receive a lot of firearm related “junk”. We resell what we can and sometimes our gunsmith uses the parts to fix other firearms. We recycle as much as possible. As part of our retail and for those hot, hot Pittsburgh summers, we sell soda. We make a conscious effort to buy glass bottles, and recycle them.
– What factors led Verona Gun Safe to occupy an older building rather than a new building?
When the owners decided to open the business, they wanted to find a smaller borough and contribute to the vibrancy of the community. We sometimes sponsor school teams in the Riverview School District and we join in Verona’s annual business days where they have a sidewalk sale. We also try to stay open when they have parades, and Verona has lots of parades! We like to help keep the business district a little more vibrant.
– What would leaders be surprised to know about Verona Gun Safe’s own sustainability challenges and opportunities?
Just by the nature of the product we are selling (firearms), we are obligated to keep records and do a lot of paperwork – and to be honest it gets expensive when you have to have 15 sheets of paper per customer/per gun. We don’t like wasting (and buying) paper; we try to keep everything in digital format, up-to-date with ATF regulations. Our customers can fill out their forms on their phones.
One of the co-owners developed this entire software, called Virtual Gun Shop, and we are very excited to deploy it permanently soon. The system has helped keep our records more secure and easier to retrieve. For example, sometimes ATF calls about certain guns and we can find the information we need in 10 seconds. We don’t have to search in a box of paper somewhere.