Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) - Ellett Brothers, an iconic Chapin business, has notified employees that their Chapin facility will be closing permanently in early August. This despite a letter written in the spring of this year by Bradley Johnson, the Chairman and CEO of their parent company, United Sporting Company, that was meant to calm employees and investors. In that letter, Johnson said that the Chapin location would remain open. He said, “I wanted to inform you that United Sporting Companies has decided effective April 30th, 2019 to cease operations of our Pittston, PA distribution facility. As we continue to look for ways to service your business as efficiently as possible, we have rationalized the Pittston, PA facility and will service your business out of Bellefontaine, Ohio and Chapin, SC.”
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Ellett Brothers was at one time the nation’s largest wholesaler of sporting goods. In its heyday, they had a large staff of operators that called across the country taking orders from customers. Retailers then received their fishing, firearms, archery, camping, and other sporting goods by shipper in a few days. They had a huge catalog of items for sale and a retailer could get the catalog wrapped with their own name. This made it appear as if that store had a huge inventory no matter the size of their business. For years, Ellett Brothers was located at Clark and Beaufort Streets in a large white, cinderblock building near the railroad track. That was later demolished, and a new Ellett Brothers was constructed on Columbia Avenue near the high school. The old property was sold and the building where the Tipsy Toad is now was built there.
Ellett Brothers was founded in 1933 by the Ellett family in Chapin. Chilton Ellett, one of the founder’s sons, ran the business for a long period and was well known around Chapin. He was flamboyant, known to always wear suspenders, a red and white shirt much like a tablecloth, and turquoise and silver jewelry. He was always a short, rotund, jolly man who could be found regularly at a table at Knocky Jackson's restaurant chatting and laughing with everyone who passed by. He passed away a number of years ago.
Ellett Brothers was sold and eventually ended up in the hands of United Sporting Company. They also had a facility in Newberry. They currently employ about 200 people and contributed a large part of the Town of Chapin’s operational income through their large annual business license fee.
All employees are said to have received a letter in the mail from United Sporting Company. In that letter, their Chief Restructuring Officer Dalton Edgecomb, thanked everyone for their service to Ellett Brothers. He said they would shut the doors on or before the first week of August.
United Sporting Companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. A number of reasons have been cited but by in large, most of what they sold to retailers can now be bought direct on-line. Although guns cannot, almost 100% of their other inventory can be ordered from companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart and be on the consumers’ doorstep in a few days.
Large brick and mortar retailers have taken away the sporting good impulse buy, a situation when a consumer needed something right now. In the past, these purchases were made at small and mid-size retailers close to your home, Ellett Brothers core customers. These are almost a thing of the past. For those purchases, almost all Americans can run to the closest Wal-Mart who carries its own brand. Companies such as that have more buying muscle to cut out the middleman and buy straight from a manufacturer instead of a wholesale.