In 1974 at the ripe old age of 24 I decided school teaching was not for me and followed my best friend Ed “Rags” Regula into the raw fur business. I moved back to Penn State in State College, PA with my english setter Tina. I bought a used house trailer, 8 feet away I put up a 14′x14′ aluminum shed, obtained necessary licenses and in September of that same year opened Lion Country Fur Post. Behind the fur shed I built 2 pens for my walker coon hounds. Grouse hunting by day, fur buying in the evenings, and coon hunting at night. Life was simple and yet so grand! On the other hand, acceptance and profits were slow to come.
The next summer, Tina had her first litter. The pups spent the summer days in the little pen watching me build an addition to “the shed” for night hunting and trapping supplies. I stocked it with dog food, wheat lights, collars, bells, traps, and lures. That fall, with hide prices at an all time high, my lane would magically fill with pick-up trucks just after dark. Farm boys with a muskrat, coon hunters with a hide, bird dog and beagle men lining up to buy dog food. It was a social of sorts. There were amish, local farmers and townies from the college mingling – swapping stories, telling lies. It was Americana at its best and Lion Country Supply was gaining acceptance.
Soon I was buying deer hides from processors. I rented a storage trailer where we would salt, flesh and stack them 1 by 1. A full load was between 1,200 and 1,400 hides. The dog supply side of the business was certainly easier and cleaner. Soon, I was planning my own dog supply catalog, which would prove to be way harder to achieve than I imagined.
In 1980 I moved the old fur post (literally on a roll back truck) over the mountain to the crossroads of 2 highways in “downtown” Port Matilda, 12 miles outside of State College PA. I attached the old building behind the rented store front shown above. I filled the store with feeds and dog supplies and added guns, ammo, fishing tackle, and live bait. For the next 12 years, I supplied both locals and traveling sportsmen with the “necessities” of life.
I worked in the evenings on my dream of a mail order catalog and the next year I scraped up enough money to have my first catalog printed. It was a 16 page black and white catalog and showed my first English Setter “Tina” on the cover. I was proud as a peacock but mail order success came slowly, subsidized by the 500 tons of dog food I was now distributing each year. The next breakthrough came when a friend called me about buying a one page website. This new venture into the World Wide Web sounded futuristic at best but I decided to give it a chance. It turned out that being the first gundog supplier on the web was a wise decision.
In 1996, 22 years after Starting Lion Country Supply, I finally built and moved into my brand new facility. Today we ship international internet orders literally every day and have dealers in 23 countries. It’s been a great 35 years and I promise Lion Country Supply won’t get too big to lose focus on the hunting dogs and dog people who got us where we are today.
John “Buck” Koritko