MERRILL - Two friends from Merrill dreamed of going into business together. On Friday, their dream will become a reality, despite a health scare that could have put their dream on hold.
Story By Lauren Stephenson
Eric Heimerl and Jon Smith are preparing to open Rutt'n Rod Outfitters.
"People come to an outfitters like this because they've worked hard all week and they want to spend their money on the things that make them smile and makes them happy," Smith said.
"We offer live bait, archery, fishing tackle, rods, reels," said Heimerl.
The store will also offer camping and trapping supplies, clothing, and even snacks and liquor.
The two friends own their own businesses. Smith is a pharmacy owner and Heimerl is a construction company owner. However, the two wanted to go into business together.
"We had come in to look for some bait and there wasn't much left, and [I] thought, 'It seems like the business could really stand a new life.' And later that week, we drove past and saw a for sale sign," Smith explained.
Smith and Heimerl bought the building last November, but just a month later, Heimerl had complications from knee surgery. He ended up having four strokes.
"It's been a miracle. I mean I don't have any deficits from the strokes and originally the doctors said I should have been totally paralyzed," Heimerl recalled.
Friends made sure the pair's plans weren't derailed. They dry-walled the entire place.
"That's one of the most reassuring parts about taking an adventure like this is that you have friends that step up and family that pitch in when the going gets tough," Smith said.
Heimerl's health scare has given him more drive to make the business a success.
"We just want to give the public what they want," Heimerl explained. "And then listen to customers as they come in."
The two want Rutt 'n Rod Outfitters to be more than just a store. That's why they've created a "hang out" area for fishermen and hunters, complete with a fireplace and even a coffee bar.
"1,300 Facebook likes is something an old business would like to have. We haven't even opened our doors yet," Smith said.
He and Heimerl look forward to welcoming their online followers to their physical store.
"This is a great example if people invest in their local community, give them a decent place to shop, give them the products that they want, money can stay locally," Smith said.
The store is located at N2460 County K in Merrill. You can find a link to the Rutt'n Rod Outfitters Facebook page below.
Rutt’n Rod Outfitters Facebook page