In the 1920s and 1930s, Bob Brownell was a middle-America businessman who owned and managed a gas station and sandwich shop in his small hometown, Montezuma, Iowa. In his free time, Bob was a devoted shooter and outdoorsman who enjoyed repairing and customizing firearms. He started by working on his own guns, but news of his talent spread quickly and he soon began accepting jobs from friends. By 1938, his gunsmithing hobby was making profits, so Bob added part-time gunsmith to his list of businesses.
As the gunsmithing business continued to grow, so too did Bob‘s need for good quality tools. He searched the few gun supply catalogs available at the time, but came to the conclusion that some of the most necessary tools just couldn‘t be purchased anywhere. When he did find tools and products that worked, he bought extras to sell to fellow gunsmiths who were also having difficulties finding supplies.
The first Brownells catalog, Number One, was sent to customers in 1947 displaying the company‘s first motto, “The First and Only Complete Gunsmiths‘ Supply House in the World.” Bob‘s dedication wasn‘t limited to product selection. He realized that being absolutely sure the customer was happy and well taken care of were equally important. Those values, which remain the focal point of the company today, served him well, and by 1951 he closed down the gunsmithing shop to concentrate full-time on providing supplies to gunsmiths across the United States.
Bob‘s son Frank worked in the business as a teenager, and then rejoined the company in 1964 after returning from serving in the United States Navy. Frank‘s education in journalism and advertising, coupled with the leadership skills he acquired in the military, served the company well as he worked alongside his father. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Brownells added more products, hired more employees and sent out more catalogs. All of this growth meant the company needed to find a new home, because the converted movie theatre it was operating in was too small.
In 1973, Brownells moved into its first purpose-built facility, where it remains today. As the company continued on its path of success, the new building had been expanded twice by 1980.
In 1983, Bob moved to the Chairman of the Board position, and named Frank the President of Brownells. By then the company was gaining a lot of attention and was considered the undisputed leader in the gunsmithing supply industry. The Research and Development portion of the business was testing models and building the latest, most innovative tools on the market. The now legendary Brownells Gun Techs™, made up of the best and most experienced gunsmiths recruited from across the U.S., made a real name for themselves as more and more customers called seeking their trusted advice. The 1980s also marked Brownells‘ entry into the gun parts market.
As was the case with many companies, the 1990s ushered in an all-new wave of technology for Brownells. With Bob‘s passing in 1991, it was all up to Frank, now President/CEO, to oversee this important transition from hand-assembling catalogs and handwriting orders to conducting business using computerized systems and the Internet. Though technology was very much a part of the Brownells culture, Frank continued to insist on open, honest, one-on-one customer service.
Under Frank‘s direction, the growth continued tremendously throughout the 1990s, and the gun parts and accessories business, along with the gunsmithing supplies continued to thrive. As a result, the company earned its title as The World‘s Largest Supplier of Firearms Accessories and Gunsmithing Tools™.
The “new era” of Brownells arrived when Frank‘s son Pete joined the company in 1997. An educated and tech-savvy businessman, Pete saw opportunities to thrust the company even further into the technological age. Named Vice President in 2000, Pete oversaw the successful implementation of the Brownells website, www. brownells.com. This provided customers around the world unprecedented access to Brownells vast selection of products.
Brownells‘ success, through both mail-order and Internet transactions, continued past the turn of the century. Frank and Pete began discussions about how to reach even more customers. The natural expansion area seemed to be reloading and longrange, precision shooting. While deciding how best to enter that market, they found the Fort Wayne, Indianabased supplier, Sinclair International - a company that embodied Brownells spirit of offering high-quality, lifetime-guaranteed products and second-to-none customer service. Frank and Pete purchased Sinclair International in 2007, which continues to be a valuable addition to the Brownells family of companies.
Pete was named Brownells President in 2008, as Frank moved to the Chief Executive Officer‘s position. That same year, the business saw unprecedented growth and again, as Brownells added more employees and products, it faced a familiar problem – not enough space. Though a number of additions and renovations had been made to the building since 1980, plans began for a major warehouse expansion that was completed in 2010.
A direct result of huge amounts of customer input, the company added another major product category in 2011 – ammunition. Until then, Brownells carried virtually every part that one would need to fix, carry or customize a firearm, but nothing to shoot from it. Since its introduction, ammunition has been one of most popular product categories with Brownells ever-expanding customer base. By 2012, Brownells was again running out of room for both employees and products. With no property remaining to expand at its 39-year-old facility in Montezuma, Brownells announced a large warehouse and office facility expansion in nearby Grinnell, Iowa, scheduled to open in late 2013. While the company will remain headquartered in Montezuma, the new facility will give it even more capability to expand its product line and will provide closer, faster access to a major Interstate highway, which will enable a more streamlined shipping process.
With the business continuing to grow at an incredible rate, Frank and Pete decided that a more efficient corporate structure was necessary to continue serving customers to the best of the company‘s ability. Therefore, Frank moved into the Chairman of the Board post and Pete ascended to the Chief Executive Officer‘s position.
As Brownells nears its 75th year in business, the company owes its success to Bob‘s three basic founding principles: provide customers with the widest Selection of products on the market; deliver them with the highest level of customer Service; and guarantee customers‘ Satisfaction – FOREVER – with a 100%, no-questionsasked, money-back guarantee.