Business / Economy

American Armory Opens in Hollister

Boutique gun store focuses on customer service and education

American Armory, a retail gun store, opened this week at 731 San Benito St. in downtown Hollister. Owner Jesse Rodriguez, 34, said he chose Hollister because of its proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area and central coast. He previously owned a gun store in Los Banos, but decided to move to Hollister when his lease was up.

“We wanted to expand and saw Hollister as having a lot of potential,” Rodriguez said. “We’re really hoping to appeal to hunters and people interested in self defense. We think the influence from the Bay Area will be better here than it was in Los Banos.”

Rodriguez said his customers in Los Banos were more focused on hunting birds and water fowl, but he sees a larger hunting community here, with people looking for guns to shoot larger animals like deer and pigs. He also liked the location and building.

“This space also worked out really well. We didn’t have to do many modifications at all,” said Sales Manager Justin Olson, 28.

The two have been working for weeks to set up the store. Immaculate hard wood floors and overhead spotlights create a light and inviting space where gun enthusiasts can check out the latest hand guns, rifles and semi-automatic weapons, as well as merchandise and accessories including T-shirts, ammunition vests, tactical gear and camouflaged clothing. A glass-enclosed case at the register displays hunting knives, vintage pistols and handguns, including Glock pistols.

Rodriguez, who served 12 years in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Iraq, has extensive experience in training people how to properly use a gun. He said he plans to make education and training a large part of his business.

“I’ve trained everyone from TCNs (third country nationals) to generals in the Army,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the user. I’m here to educate.”

The store plans to host both on-site trainings and shooting lessons in Los Banos, where Rodriquez has access to a shooting range.

Asked how he would respond to criticism from residents who may not like a gun store downtown, he was quick to offer advice.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that,” Rodriguez said. “They can be offended, but I am here to educate and I would encourage anti-gun types to take the time to learn about guns and take a class. I’ll offer a free class to any anti-gun person.”

Customers will be able to sign up for classes with a specific purpose, such as hunting or self-defense.

“I’m going to offer classes specifically for women interested in how to use a gun,” he said.  

“We have a simple process. First, we give people a test asking about their knowledge of guns. Second, we will walk them through a variety of types of guns, focusing on a custom fit. We’re all about finding the right gun for the individual,” he said. “You want to make sure it’ a comfortable fit. We’re more like a boutique than a big gun store.”

Indeed, Rodriguez was happy to show this reporter several models of smaller guns that he said are popular with women.

“Don’t put your finger off the trigger,” he said, smiling.

Smaller models can fit into a purse, glove compartment or nightstand drawer and are designed for self-defense, he said. Gun customers also need to obtain a firearm safety training (FAS) certificate before purchasing a gun.

The store sold its first gun this week, according to its Facebook page, and will be hosting opening events in coming weeks, including a weekly raffle with prize giveaways. For more information, readers can visit their Facebook page or call (831) 265-7708. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Julie Finigan Morris

Julie Finigan Morris is a journalist and business owner. She has worked as staff writer for several news organizations, including Thomson Newspapers in Washington D.C., McClatchy Newspapers and Scripps News Service. She is also the Co-Founder and Owner of Morris Grassfed and has lived in San Benito County for more than 25 years. Morris has also worked in corporate communications, marketing, and the non-profit sector. She is a founding board member of BenitoLink and currently serves on its Editorial Committee. She recently published her first novel, Exit Strategy. Visit her online at