Fluvanna Faces: Mike Brookman, owner, Fluvanna County Firearms

By Harvey J. Sorum

Tell us about your background.

I went into the Air Force back in 1979 and wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it would be. Peacetime military is extremely different than when they’re on a war footing. 

So in 1984 through contacts and I had made I was able to get a job in Washington DC. And by 1988 I moved my wife and two young sons out to Virginia. This is the job where I became very familiar with firearms. I qualified in 1984 to carry a firearm for my job and have done so every day since then.

In 2000 my wife and I started a shuttle company. That’s what led us to the Charlottesville area, we started shuttling UVA students from apartment complexes into the UVA transit system. Our shuttle company is actually still doing this, and this will be our 23rd year of it.

Why did you select Charlottesville for your first retail store?

I have been a shooting enthusiast for long as I can remember and since we were spending a lot of time in Charlottesville, I joined the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club. It is a great organization. It has developed a lot of great programs for new and existing shooters. I noticed that we did not have many choices in the Charlottesville area for gun shops. As a matter fact, there was only one. They catered more to the hunters and sporting goods side and that’s not the type of shooting that I was into. So in the year 2010 I found a commercial retail space that would actually rent to someone who was going to open a gun shop. This was my fourth attempt at trying to lease a commercial retail space. The previous three attempts did not pan out once the owners of the spaces found out it was going to be a gun shop. I guess the failed attempts were for a reason, the space that we were in was just one door down from Papa Johns Pizza. That Papa Johns created a tremendous amount of foot traffic, which we benefited from. 

Why did you move from Charlottesville to Fork Union?

Our store in Charlottesville benefited from being in a more centralized location. But we had started to outgrow the space that we were in. And there were things that I wanted to accomplish that the space would just not work for. We had sold our home up north and had a condo in Charlottesville and we found out that we were not suited for that type of living and started looking for some land to build on. When traveling out in the Fluvanna County area we found a home just like the one we had up North. Soon after we had moved out to Fluvanna County, I started thinking about moving my shop. I had found some land that suited my needs, so we started planning on building a new shop just 1.5 miles from our home. 

What have you found to be the advantages of locating in Fluvanna County?

Very early in the process I found the county to be very agreeable for having this type of business. They did this by giving me a 5 to 0 vote by the Planning Commission and a 5 to 0 vote by the Board of Supervisors. We had a very large customer base that lived in Louisa County, Fluvanna County, and Buckingham County. So, our shop is now located out where our customer base lives. 

Has the move met your goals?

We have not quite met our goals yet. It was a very complicated move. Once I had moved my shop from the Charlottesville location to the Fluvanna location, we could not open for two months due to complications with some last-minute zoning issues which delayed ATF from coming out and inspecting my building and re-issuing my license. Of course, all my planning and building stages took place during the era of Covid. I lost at least 10 months due to supply issues. This type of business is something that you must have extreme patience with. We are though moving in the right direction it just takes time with this type of relocation. 

Your facility in Fork Union is unique in appearance.  How would you describe it?

Originally, I had planned on building what you would call a conventional stick-built building. There were things that I had added to the building that would have made it more secure, but it was in the end just a regular building. It has always been an issue of being able to secure a building. During my years in Charlottesville, I had 12 attempted break-ins. So now I was dealing with a situation where I was no longer comfortable with a conventional building. I was raised at an airport that my great uncle built right after World War II, and most of the early hangers were Quonset type buildings. My builder, Cecil Cobb, agreed with me to change the plans and build the steel Quonset huts. There’s a reason why the military uses this type of building for its longevity, and its ability to withstand mother nature at her worst. 

Other than firearms, what products do you offer?

We carry a wide variety of merchandise that one would need to be active in the shooting community. Everything from safety gear, holsters, and everything in between. The one thing that I’m able to offer at our new location is training. When doing the architectural design of the interior, I had a room that was specifically built for a firearm simulator. I combined a classroom environment with the firearms simulator. It’s a fantastic way to take a new shooter and train them in the basics of safety. 

When a potential customer visits your store and has no idea of what type of firearm to purchase, what advice do you give them?

This comes up more than you would think. We are more than willing to work with new customers to find them exactly what they need. First off, we ask them what is the mission? Usually, though the customer does have some idea of what they want to accomplish. Once we find out what this firearm is to be used for, we start getting some handguns or rifles into their hands, as there is no one gun that fits all. More times than I can remember people have walked out of the store with a handgun they never knew existed because it fit comfortably. Of course, the customer is always right and if they are dead set on one firearm or brand of firearm, we can work with that too. 

Safety is a primary factor with firearms.  What are some of the things you preach?

Everything about firearms is safety-based. Without hard fast rules of gun handling, it just wouldn’t work. A firearm is an object that causes no harm until someone picks it up and that’s when all the safety protocols must go into effect. The safety rules are not complicated. Treat all guns as if they’re always loaded. Never let the muzzle point at anything that you’re not willing to destroy. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sites are on target and you have made the decision to shoot. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

What is the difference between your products and retailers who sell many things other than firearms?

Our mission is firearm based but we are not here to just sell firearms. Our mission is to make sure that our customers understand the responsibility of owning a firearm. It is something that we take very seriously. I believe that a store that can have one single focus can be more successful at what they do than a store that has multiple facets that they try to push. 

Do you offer safety classes for seasoned gun owners as well as those who want to start learning the right way from the start?

This was one of the main reasons why I wanted to relocate our store. I now have the space to be able to give classes on multiple levels. Safety is learned through experience, the more time that is spent on training the safer an individual will be. At my old store in Charlottesville, I did not have the capability to take a new shooter and bring them up through classes so they could become competent with a firearm. Now with the new shop, I have that capability. With our firearms simulator, we can even put people into different scenarios. At the present time I have over 400 different programs that can be run on the simulator. We can take it from the very simple to extremely difficult situation. 

How do you show a customer the correct way to use guns?

We always encourage a new owner to get training. But there are times when the customer’s needs are very basic. I never let a customer leave the store unless they know how to at least load the firearm and more importantly how to unload the firearm. Now that we have the facilities where we can train, I hope more and more firearm owners and new purchasers that have no experience will utilize the capabilities that our new shop has.

Comments on your web site compliment you because of the friendliness and outstanding knowledge of your staff.  What are your requirements before hiring them?

We certainly appreciate all the great compliments that we have received on our website. It really boils down to the fact that the staff that we have are experienced and truly enjoy talking to folks that have the same interest that we have. Only a couple of staff that I’ve had over the past 13 years did not come from either a military or a police background. I certainly depend on a staff that has a wide knowledge of firearms.  They need to be able to understand the complicated laws that the federal and state governments have imposed on firearms transactions. I look for someone who has the capability to acknowledge and act on what I call their Spidey sense. That’s when your gut feeling tells you that this situation is not right. They need the confidence to be able to act on that and not sell them a firearm. Since this is a unique business, we can refuse to sell a firearm to anyone that we do not feel confident in. It hasn’t happened as much now that we’re in our new store, but at our old store in Charlottesville it was quite a common occurrence of someone trying to do what we call a straw purchase. 

Today’s businesses incorporate a web site and e-mail contact address.  What are yours?

Our main email is transfers@acfstore.com, and our phone number is 434-973-0300. Our address is 6672 James Madison Highway, Fork Union, 23055. Our driveway is asphalt and looks like you’re driving out into nothing, but I tell my customers we are indeed at the end of the driveway.

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