A search for a warehouse led John Hwang of Auburn, Wash., to Wichita. And he’s ended up with much more than just a building.
In addition to a warehouse for his Rainier Arms gun distributorship, Hwang also now has a house here and is reopening a gun range and retail shop at the former Thunderbird Firearms Academy at 2831 N. Greenwich.
“Wichita’s a lot more gun friendly than my hometown, so there’s a lot of good opportunities in that regard,” he says.
Hwang says he wanted a more centralized distribution point for his firearms and accessories and began looking in Wichita, Oklahoma City and Kansas City a couple of years ago.
“I happened to find a warehouse in Wichita,” he says.
It’s a 45,000-square-foot building on 31st Street South by Spirit AeroSystems.
“We just opened the facility about a month ago,” Hwang says. “We’re gradually moving everything to Wichita.”
His headquarters will remain in Washington where the company also has a Rainier Arms storefront.
Hwang says he mentioned his new warehouse on Facebook, and someone then brought up the former Thunderbird space.
He researched it and decided to buy it.
“I’m super excited, obviously, (and) nervous at the same time,” Hwang says.
He’s calling the business Rainier Arms Firearms Academy.
Hwang says Rainier Arms has a fairly big national presence, so he says he guesses retail will be the main driver at the new academy and will have a bigger role than the Thunderbird store did.
He closed on the 27,000-square-foot building on Tuesday and expects the academy to open within 90 days.
Hwang says former Thunderbird owner Ryan Pennock was “just a fine gentleman” to answer questions as Hwang tried to decide about the purchase.
“He has been extremely helpful to me.”
Though he doesn’t know the area well, Hwang says he already appreciates Wichita on a number of levels.
“I love how friendly everybody is, how welcoming the people are,” he says.
Also, “it’s so affordable.”
Hwang says gas is about $1.50 a gallon cheaper, and food is less expensive as well.
“The houses are extremely affordable.”
He says for a not-especially-nice two-bedroom apartment in his area, it costs about $1,800 a month.
In Wichita, he says you can find a far nicer apartment on a golf course for $800.
Hwang says he thought it would be hard to lure workers to Wichita.
“The majority of my employees jumped at the opportunity.”
Rainier Arms has 35 employees, five of whom have already moved to Wichita. At least a few more are coming.
Hwang says he’s not sure if other employees at the headquarters would want to uproot their families and move to Wichita, but it could happen because he’s amenable to moving the entire company here.
“Absolutely that’s . . . a possibility.”