Businessman David E. Pidgeon, owner of Pidgeons Gun Shop and Gunsmithing located on Route 7 in New Haven, Vt., is still pinching himself-he can't believe he's been in business for a half-a-century this month.
In the 50 years since he became Vermont's premiere gun dealer and gunsmith, Pidgeon, "the Gun Doctor", estimates he's repaired over 50,000 weapons locally. And up until the 1990s, he even conducted exotic hunting safaris to Mexico, South America and Canada. His biggest customer base come from Addison, Rutland and Chittenden counties in Vermont, but there are others who visit from as far away as New Mexico.
The Bridport native started his business in June 1959 as a means to supplement his income in dairy farming. His parents, French-Canadian farmers Theodore and Helen Pidgeon, were barely paying the bills during a depression in the dairy business-a situation not unlike today's.
"I simply had to earn more money on the side," Pidgeon said. "My friends, Cary Marshall, and his brother George Marshall who used to own the Marshall John Deere dealership (now Hendy Brothers), helped me get this business off the ground. I started out with custom reloading and repairing, primarily of hunting rifles and handguns; I branched out from there."
Pidgeon said his business started at a good time, just when Addison County lost its premiere gunsmith, J. Bushnell Smith of Weybridge.
"Smith died in a tragic house fire in 1958," he said, "so there was a real need for this type of business."
The gun shop first opened at what is now Misty Knoll Farm in New Haven. After struggling with the dairy operation, Pidegon finally auctioned off the family farm in 1986; in 1989 he built a new house with adjoining shop at the current Route 7 location.
Pidgeon has seen a lot of changes in the business since the 1950s. Since 1968, gun control laws have negatively affected the industry, however, ironically, more people than ever are buying guns and stockpiling ammunition-including a big increase in female gunownership and safety training.