Almost 10 years ago, the Swango family took on a new adventure in life and decided on a complete career change in a new location.
The family lived in Ohio, but within three months in 2008, Lonnie Swango, a 29-year journeyman machinist, Wanda Swango and their two daughters lost their jobs. The Great Recession was hitting its peak.
They had to find something.
Then Lonnie picked up a paper one day while they were visiting Tennessee and saw a classified ad that would change their lives. There was a gun store for sale in Whitesburg.
So, they bought it.
“It was out of desperation,” Wanda Swango said, laughing. “We bought our job.”
Swango’s Precision Firearms opened for business in December 2009.
Lonnie and Wanda own the store, while their daughter Jessica Johns helps out full-time.
They are proud of being a family-owned business and family service is important.
“Everyone who walks in our door is important to us,” Lonnie said.
They’ve seen highs and lows in the industry. After President Donald Trump took office, they said they have seen dramatic change.
“This is a very political business,” Lonnie said.
“Much more than we knew,” Wanda said almost immediately.
Lonnie said when they first bought the business, when President Barack Obama was in office, there would be cars parked double in the parking lot. At one point, they employed eight people, he said. It was sometimes hard to find products because of demand.
Now it’s simple.
“Tell me what you want and I’ll get it,” he said.
But the family keeps moving forward in the business.
“We’ve seen the peak, now we’re in the valley,” he said.
What sets them apart from other stores, though, is their exceptional customer service.
The services offered include a handgun carry class, gun appraisals, gun cleaning, mounting bore sighted scopes, transfers, consignment, 60-day layaway and special orders.
Lonnie also offers something many other gun dealers do not. Classes on handloading ammunitiion.
“We have a pretty good selection of handloading or reloading tools,” he said. “Most people don’t have a clue about that process.”
He said he thinks its important for shooters to learn the craft because of the sense of pride from being able to fire something they made themselves.
There’s always a personal connection with the customers. They help out in anyway, whether it be looking for the best firearm based on abilities and budget or putting in an extra step of helping find out how much a gun is worth.
“When people come to the store, it gives me the opportunity to help someone,” Lonnie said. “Education is key.”
The Swangos are now entrenched in East Tennessee. There’s some things Lonnie said he still misses about living in Northeast Ohio, such as having more hunting opportunities.
But, Tennessee is now home.
“This is where we moved and this is where we will stay,” he said.