New Castle News

April 14, 2012

Josh Drespling: Fishing is my business and business is good

Josh Drespling
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Old Man Winter has released his mighty grasp on us and let spring settle upon us. The warm days are welcomed by a tradition that I remember fondly from my childhood, an event that in my youth seemed like the largest happening of the year. This event brought droves of people to the banks of the Neshannock Creek. I'm speaking of the first day of trout fishing season.

My brother and I would prepare weeks ahead of time, carefully developing our attack. But we were not planning on what fishing holes to hit or where the best spots were. Nor were we preparing fishing lures, tackle or poles. We were planning to make money!

Each and every year we would set up shop along the creek side with our rusty old wagon, homemade signs and a camping cooler full of night crawlers. Yes, we sold fishing worms to all the would-be-anglers.

This was not a fly-by-night operation. We had well laid plans. On the fiscal end, all our capital was derived from personal assets (otherwise known as allowance money). We carefully monitored our expenditures as we bought Styrofoam cups and lids that fit perfectly. We also purchased poster board from our petty-cash to produce our signs. We lacked an art and advertising department so we had to improvise and make due with some spare markers to get the word out.

Dad let us borrow tomato stakes from the garden so that we could line the road with our advertising. We also had to place the all important sign at the end of the road with the big arrow leading the way to our establishment.

Product development also was paramount. We carefully harvested the biggest and best night crawlers from our back yard night after night. In the evening we would spray down a section of yard with the garden hose to help coax the worms out, then wait until dark. We would spend countless hours with flash lights in hand catching our precious commodities. One by one we would fill our buckets with our cash-cow crop.

Our packaging facility consisted of my brother and me commandeering the porch on the night before fishing season began. Each cup would get a handful of shredded New Castle News papers that we had been saving for weeks. We would then moisten the paper with some water and add 13 of the cherished worms to each container.

Once our wares were successfully packaged they would be moved to our climate-controlled warehouse, also known as mom's refrigerator. We would place them in the refrigerator to keep them cool and to put them in a sub-dormant state that would help prolong their shelf life.

The next morning we would have to be up extremely early. Just as the sun was just beginning to peak out at us, we would load up our cooler and wagon and make our way down our long, long driveway to where the fishermen were. We would be open for business long before the first line ever hit the water. Such is the life of retail moguls.

My brother and I would take turns manning the storefront and mom would come and check on us occasionally. If memory serves me, we charged a whopping 35 cent per dozen, because that is the price point our market research had pointed to. We never really made more than a few dollars, but to a 10-year-old kid in 1980, that was a good bit of money.

Our bottom line was amazing, as we saw nearly 1,000 percent profit from our minimal investment and our year-over-year growth was substantial as customers expected us to be there.

I guess if I would have lived in town, rather than being a country boy, I would have had a lemonade stand. But I must say that having a night crawler wagon makes for a much more interesting story and experience.