New gun and survival gear business seeks Ravenna approval

Ravenna City Hall. Ben Wolford/The Portager

City leaders are considering a Ravenna resident’s bid to run a gun and supplies business out of his home.

North Prospect Street resident Arthur Hrdlicka petitioned Ravenna’s Planning Commission on Jan. 31 for conditional approval for what the city calls “a home-based business.” Because it is illegal to run home-based businesses anywhere in Ravenna unless the city grants a conditional use certificate, Hrdlicka was required to ask for the permit, the Planning Commission said.

A public hearing is set for 6:15 p.m. Feb. 28 at City Hall. Ravenna’s Planning Commission will vote that night, giving Hrdlicka a final thumbs up or down.

The Portage County Auditor’s Office lists the property owner as Cari Ann Weber. Hrdlicka said he and Weber are engaged and plan to wed this summer. The home is a two-story house on a quarter-acre lot surrounded by other residential properties.

“Gun sales are a very small portion of our business. Survival and tactical gear and parts and accessories, that is our main business,” Hrdlicka said.

Hrdlicka intends to call the business Portage Tactical and told Planning Commission members he will sell goods to customers via drop shipping, not through retail foot traffic.

Typical drop shipping starts with the seller, in this case Portage Tactical, signing an agreement with the drop shipper, in this case numerous wholesale suppliers. Customers would order online, Portage Tactical would take the orders, and provide the customers with order confirmations.

Portage Tactical would then forward the order to the supplier, who would ship the order to the customer.

As a drop shipper, Hrdlicka would engage with wholesale suppliers who act as middlemen between retail establishments such as Portage Tactical and manufacturers.

“With the thousands of products out there on the market, it makes it so the small companies don’t need to carry a vast inventory,” he explained. “I could put 10,000 items on the website and I could only have two of them in stock.”

Wholesalers also don’t have to invest in marketing or sales, instead relying on outfits such as Portage Tactical to complete those crucial tasks. Drop shippers also save wholesalers the trouble of building and maintaining multiple dealer networks, not to mention huge warehouses that would be needed to house thousands of products.

“Manufacturers want to deal with one company that will grab their product, who will contact his dealer network, and get the product out there,” he said. “They just have to make it and hold onto it. I can pull from 10 different warehouses and never have to put out my money.”

Hrdlicak said he would forward requests for firearms to a dealer close to the customer’s location. The dealer, he said, would complete required background checks.

“No guns are shipped through the mail except to a licensed dealer,” he said. “Guns legally cannot be shipped through the mail to somebody’s house.”

Apart from limited inventory for gun shows, Hrdlicka said weapons would not be stockpiled in his home.

“I understand the concern, but out of my location I will not do any face-to-face transactions. Any inventory I have would be sold at shows off our premises,” he said.

In addition to providing weapons, Portage Tactical would supply freeze dried foodstuffs people might use for emergencies or outdoor excursions, holsters, and other gear. Bullets will be available for purchase from the website but will not be in his home, he said.

To ensure security, Hrdlicka has already installed a security system that includes cameras. All weapons, money and customer information will be locked in a safe, he said. The final obstacle a potential intruder would face is Hrdlicka’s two Great Danes.

“They’re household pets. They’re not attack dogs. They are there to be a deterrent,” he said.

Should Ravenna city leaders approve Hrdlicka’s proposal, he plans to open Portage Tactical for business as soon as possible.

This isn’t the first time a gun seller sought Planning Commission approval for home operations in Portage County. In November 2020, Kent’s Planning Commission granted Jessica West’s petition to operate West Arms FFL out of her home at 772 W. Main St.

Though West’s neighbor’s showered Kent’s Planning Commission with a wave of opposition, she did receive the conditional zoning certificate needed to launch her business.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office shows she filed articles of organization for a domestic limited liability company in August 2020. However, the company, which she claimed would “perform firearm sales transactions” and conduct on-premises background checks, does not appear to have a listed phone number or an online presence.

West Arms FFL was perhaps more controversial because its business model required buyers to pick up their orders at the home, creating concerns about guns in the neighborhood and traffic in and out of the driveway.

Planning Commission Secretary Tiffany Holloway said no one spoke either for or against Hrdlicka’s proposal at the recent Planning Commission meeting.

“At face value it sounds like another business for the city, and that’s a good thing in the end,” City Council President Andrew Kluge said. “We’ll have to see on the 28th how the public hearing goes.”

If all goes well, Hrdlicka said his ultimate goal would be to open a storefront “somewhere in Ravenna.”

“I want to have a respectable storefront, something well put together, well thought out,” he said. “Doing the sales like this will give me an idea of what people are looking for, what products to carry.”

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.