Build it and they will come may have worked like a charm for the big screen dreamer who built a baseball diamond in his cornfield, but that simple statement also proved true for Maggie and Frank Navarrete when they bet their future on a small store filled with top shelf fishing tackle, a few thousand other fly fishing goodies, and a whole lot of good old fashion sporting fellowship.
When the Navarrete’s hung their shingle on Ravenna’s main drag they did it with high hopes, knowing full well their downtown shop, tucked between a clothing store and bank, was anything but common fare for passing shoppers. But there is a grapevine among like-minded folks and the word spread quickly.
And they came. Fly fishers first, then others who leaned to the shooting sports, those who spent their energies on hunting dogs, and even those who just wanted to say hello. That was 30 odd years ago, and since then kids who learned to tie flies at Navarrete’s TMF Sport Shop matured and traveled widely, catching trout and bass and, well, name it, and still they come back to the shop to stock their fly tying boxes and to caress the fishing rod they covet, and more than anything, to swap tales with Navarrete.
When questioned about Frank’s collecting habits, Maggie Navarrete once told me that he was a collector all right, a collector of friends. She wasn’t wrong and a visit to the shop on any given, Saturday proved her point. Coffee cups and tall tales were always on the menu as customers and friends gathered around the fly tying table, always in ear shot of Navarrete and always willing to share their outdoor successes with anyone who would listen.
Outgrowing the Ravenna location, the Navarrete’s moved the shop to a spot with more parking then finally built an inviting, self-standing shop in Rootstown where it remains.
But all good things come to an end, a fact that Frank Navarrete has come to accept. Now in his early 80s, Navarrete’s daily activities will soon change from tending the shop to learning retirement, as he closes the doors to his past, a fine history of developing what has become a destination for sportsmen, a welcoming courtroom where a guy could tell the same tale twice or thrice about a trout that grows larger with each telling.
A courtroom filled with pipe smoke, and where a lie is as good as fact, the coffee always fresh, and the selection of tackle and hooks the best in the region.
Decades pass quickly, technology drives the economy, and old hunting dogs lose their nose. And sadly, Navarrete will close the doors to his TMF Sport Shop in the next few weeks, and when he does, the rest of us who valued the shop as a friendly rest stop, will be a bit poorer.
If you need a BFF or just want to see Navarrete’s shop, you’ll find him nestled in his swivel chair waiting for his next buddy to walk in. Find out more at www.tmfsportshop.com.