Ask 81-year-old Tom Elliott why he simply doesn’t retire and enjoy the good life, his answer is simple.
“Why?” he says matter of factly. “That’s the answer. Why?”
Perhaps its because Elliott, owner of Bacon Creek Gun Shop since it opened in 1955, is doing what he loves everyday. The gun enthusiast and shop owner celebrated the 50th anniversary of the south Corbin gun store over the weekend with family and customers.
“The gun business is fascinating,” Elliott said. “You just don’t want to retire. I just got interested in guns and I’ve stayed interested in them.”
A truly family business, Elliott, with the help of his father Charles, opened the original Bacon Creek Gun shop about 100 feet from its current location near Kroger. At first it was a repair and refinishing shot were local shooters could get their firearms refurbished and repaired. Since, it’s grown into one of the most successful and venerable businesses on the busy, merchant-filled south Corbin corridor.
Elliott served as an Army medic in World War II before attending a year of gunsmith training at Trinidad Junior College in Colorado. Deciding that to really be a quality gunsmith, you had to be a good machinist, Elliott then attended Lexington Vocational School for two years – during which time he met his wife Ethel who, 54 years later, is an integral part of the store.
“As long as he made a living, I didn’t really care what he did,” Ethel Elliott said, remembering the first days the shop opened.
Ethel worked in a local ophthalmologist’s office for years before retiring, but always did help out at the store. In that time, she’s built a wealth of knowledge about firearms and the people who buy them.
“I always worked here on my days off. I know a lot about them,” she said. “We’ve been here so long. We have customers now that their fathers came to us to trade.”
Elliott moved the store to its current location in 1966. As stock and clientele grew, so has the store through two expansions.
Though he has a repair shop in the store, Elliott said he no longer does any refinishing. There have been other changes over the years as well.
Elliott said a robust anti-gun movement and laws making gun ownership have made things more difficult.
“It’s affected things enormously,” Elliott said. “The Brady Bill did it more than anything. You’re actually approved by the federal government to buy a gun, even if you are an honest citizen. People just don’t like that. People just don’t want the government in their private business.”
Through it all, he said the success of his business rests on knowledge of firearms and being located in an area where guns are well accepted.
“In southeastern Kentucky … they just like their guns. A lot of people hunt and camp and hike, that sort of thing,” he said. “As a usual thing in the media, guns are frowned upon. But since I’ve been in business, I have known a young man that is a CEO of a hospital and his mother bought him ammunition here when he was too young. I’ve had young boys come through here that are retired police, managers even a gospel minister. I can name kids one after another that bought ammunition and guns here. The gun didn’t turn them into thugs.”
Elliott is a 1941 graduate of Corbin High School and said returning to Corbin to open a business, after working in Detroit for a few years, was his dream.
He said he’s had a lot of help along the way including brother Gary Elliott and friend James “Sonny” Distad.
Fifty years later, his son Leonard, who works in the store, and grandson are both gun enthusiasts who will likely keep the tradition going.
“I’d say it will stay a family business, one way or another.”
- Public Records
- Contact Us
- Subscribe Now!
- Community Directory