1013 Hoover Tactical Firearms
Owners Gene Smith and Thomas “Whit’ Wright stand with staff inside Hoover Tactical Firearms’ large retail area.
As Gene Smith and Thomas “Whit” Wright sit inside the member lounge of their 52,000-square-foot grocery store turned shooting range, they find it hard to believe where they are today.
“We were just avid gun collectors,” Smith said. “This was a hobby that got out of control.”
Smith and Thomas are owners of Hoover Tactical Firearms, located on Montgomery Highway in the former Bruno’s building. The business began in 2009 right across the street as a neighborhood gun store simply hoping for local recognition through advertisement. They got it, and their business expanded quickly.
“We started looking down the road at what was good for the company and the community,” Smith said. “We wanted a handgun range. We knew if we didn’t do it, somebody else would.”
In 2011, the store opened at its current location and expanded its business into a full retail shop, 12 pistol lanes, eight rifle lanes and two classrooms, where a variety of training and teambuilding events are held. Smith said law enforcement agencies often come to train using a specialized video simulator, and classes for women and children are available.
“We pride ourselves on education,” Wright said. “We have classes that range from free ones for children to full-blown handgun safety.”
Wright says that while the business already has the largest indoor training room in Southeast, they are still looking to expand to more shooting lanes. In addition, their large retail shop in the front of the business offers clothing, firearms, firearm accessories, gun rental and even gun customization. Gunsmiths customize the guns in the back of the store and use leftover Bruno’s equipment to bake on the paint.
Being housed in a former grocery store also made a deli possible. Cubby’s Corner Deli, owned and operated by former police officer “Cubby” Manzella, serves hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches. Specials throughout the week like Sloppy Joe Fridays have attracted regulars, and for brave customers there are dining options such as the Diablo, Widow Maker and Heart Attack.
“Bruno’s left all their deli equipment and Cubby had always wanted to open a restaurant,” Smith said. “It’s like a mini ‘Cheers’. He has the same people that come back every week and every evening.”
Smith and Wright are thankful for their Hoover community, but they also enjoy greeting out of town customers.
“We’ve had people as far as Demopolis, Cullman and Clanton come by,” Wright said. “We’ve also had people stop by on their way to their beach just because they’ve heard about us and want to check us out.”
Additionally, the shop has attracted famous figures including former Republican candidate for Presidential nomination Herman Cain, as well as sports icons from the New Orleans Saints and The University of Alabama and Auburn University football teams. Both owners are happy to share their gun knowledge with anyone who makes time for a visit.
“You never know who’s going to walk through that door,” Smith said