Generations mark Reno’s longest-operating sporting goods retailer | nnbw.com
Rob Sabo
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Generations mark Reno’s longest-operating sporting goods retailer

Todd, left, Marty and Dave Piccinini pause long enough for a photo at Mark Fore & Strike, which the family has owned since 1967.

Martin Piccinini was working as a mechanic in the late 1960s when he got tired of busting his knuckles. Looking for a career change, he sold everything he owned and purchased a fledgling sporting goods store on Kietzke Lane in 1967.

That store — Mark Fore & Strike — has been run by the Piccinini family for going on 50 years now.

The elder Piccininis operated Mark Fore & Strike until 1987, when it was purchased by their children, Marty and Francy. Over time, a third generation, grandsons Todd and Dave Piccinini, bought into the business. There's now a fourth generation of the family who has worked at the store as well, though time will tell if they also take an ownership stake in Reno's longest-operating sporting goods retailer.

Dave Piccinini (pronounced Peach-in-ini) serves as the store's senior vice president, while Todd is vice president. Marty and Francy are still the store's owners, although actual ownership of the business is split between the four.

Although the younger Piccininis now do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to business operations and management, Dave Piccinini is quick to credit the hard work and dedication of his grandparents and parents as the reasons Mark Fore & Strike is in its fifth decade of operation.

"From the word 'Go,' my dad was the one who was here seven days a week," he says.

Dave Piccinini has literally spent his entire life at the store — "As the story goes, this was the first stop on the way home from the hospital," he says.

It's been a long journey for the Piccinini family, from slow early-stage growth to hunkering down through the Great Recession and surviving the influx of big box competitors that siphoned a great deal of business away from the store. Through it all, Mark Fore & Strike persevered.

Initially, as the store struggled to turn a profit, Martin Piccinini added boat sales and service to the store's retail offerings to boost revenue. Mark Fore & Strike exited the boat business in late 1980s since the store had been generating profit and the boat business proved untenable. In 1976 the iconic store expanded its footprint to its current size.

Many small sporting goods retailers have come and gone over the years, most notably Johnson's Sporting World and The Sportsman. Through all the local and national competition, Mark Fore & Strike held the line, buoyed by several generations of loyal customers passing through the building's doors to buy fishing or camping equipment or firearms. Firearm sales, along with optics and accessories, has always been the largest revenue generator at Mark Fore & Strike, followed by fishing. The store has the largest selection of guns of any retailer in the Truckee Meadows, Dave Piccinini says.

Those big retailers that were latecomers to the market drew off many potential customers, but their presence only made the Piccinini family sharpen their focus in areas where they could separate themselves from the name-brand retail chains.

"We had to get on our game," Dave Piccinini says. "We had to sharpen our prices and make sure our knowledge and service were at their peak.

"We went from being the biggest store in town to being a convenience store," he adds.

Dave Piccinini first started working at the store his sophomore year at Reed High School — but truthfully, he and his younger brother grew up at the store. Like many kids whose parents own and run small businesses in Reno, if they wanted to spend time with their parents they had to go to the store.

"My dad was here seven days a week, and if we wanted to see dad he was at Mark Fore & Strike all day long," Dave Piccinini says.

The store proved a natural outlet for both young Piccinini children, who hold a deep love of outdoors activities.

"All I could think about was hunting and fishing all my life, and after high school, all I wanted to do was come to work here," Dave Piccinini adds.

Marty Piccinini had other thoughts, though. He made his oldest son try his hand at college before working full-time at Mark Fore & Strike.

"It was the longest four years of my life as I got through college so I could get back in this place," Dave Piccinini says. "Coming back here after college, there weren't any major breakthroughs, but from a management standpoint I learned how to deal with people better."

Despite more than four decades at the store, there's no single moment that Dave Piccinini says stands out as his fondest memory. Rather, working with his parents and grandparents and watching his own kids work with their great-grandmother Lois are the memories of which he's most fond.

"You know you have been around a while and done something right when they are all still doing it," he says. "Not every family can stand in a business six days a week, 52 weeks a year and work side by side, and we have been pretty fortunate to be able to do that. That's how tight our family is."

Lois Piccinini died in November of 2015. She wrote more than 50,000 hunting and fishing licenses for Nevada residents. It's that longevity of which the Piccinini family is most proud.

"Our legacy is the fact that we have been able to serve and be with generations of families over the years, whether it was their first rod, their first gun or hunting license," Dave Piccinini says.