Jay’s: A Good Deeper Than Just Sporting Goods

JaysI don’t shop at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare, Michigan because of their wide assortment of guns, ammo, fishing equipment, canoes, bows, decoys, clothing, tents, boots, books, movies, maps, dog food, paintball gear, binoculars, four-wheelers, and other outdoor related equipment, although it is a reason.

I also don’t shop at Jay’s because they have competitive prices, although that too is a reason.

I also don’t shop at Jay’s because they have a convenient location just off U.S. 127 and U.S. 10 north of Clare and I drive by it all the time, which is a yet another reason.

All those reasons do explain why the stores parking lot is full most days and people are lined up three deep at many of their counters (especially their gun counter) when hunting season arrives, but they don’t explain why I shop there.   
I shop there is because they care.  

Their owners are fine people who care about their employees, their customers and their community. You get the idea when you walk into their enclosed entryway and read a message of appreciation from Mid-Michigan Community College given to Jay Poet’s family for helping raise more than $1 million to support the school’s scholarships, program development, facilities, and programs for at-risk youth.

If you read the local papers, you will see Jay’s Sporting Goods listed as a sponsor or donor for many events and activities in Clare County and other nearby counties. Their support includes everything from the local county fair to the Veteran’s Memorial Park, organizations like Friends of Clare County Parks and Recreation.

Blogger’s Note: Ok, this article is starting to get waaaaay too serious so I need to stop here and admit that I also shop at Jay’s because they have they have a bunch of really cool stuff, like zombie archery targets, animal mounts (and sometimes folks actually performing taxidermy while one watches), and cool gifts I can’t find anywhere else, and manly items for my manly life that make me want to act…well…manly. Now back to the more serious content.

Jay’s has had an interesting history, and it hasn’t always been a happy one.  Yet, the family continues to count their blessings—and share them. 

Jay’s was started in 1971 by Jay and Arlene Poet in a one-car garage of their Clare home. Jay was quite the outdoorman, I understand and loved to share his passion with others. With a dedication to service and quality, his business steadily grew to the point that they moved into an 8,400 square foot store with 14-parking spaces and soon became Jay’s Sporting Goods.  Continued growth caused them to outgrow that store and in 1987, the family broke ground on a new site that had been, until then, a hayfield, 

On July 1, 1988, the new Jay’s Sporting Goods opened to the public, one day after Jay was diagnosed with cancer. Some nine months later, the founder of Jay’s Sporting Goods passed away leaving the business in the hands of his family. From the looks of things, the business didn’t miss a beat. Under Jay and Arlene’s sons Jeff and J.J., the business continued to thrive.  It has even spawned a satellite location in Gaylord, Michigan with 40,000 square feet of space. 

And it has spawned a tradition. Every April, Jay’s sponsors an event called “A Northern Tradition” to benefit the local college. The business shuts the store in order to offer event ticketholders a private shopping experience (made even nicer thanks to a $25 store gift certificate that comes with every $50 ticket).  Attendees also receive a limited-edition outdoor themed print all the while enjoying a wide selection of food donated by mid-Michigan’s best restaurants. More than 800 people attend the event that is also sponsored by area businesses and organizations. 

Over the last 13 years, well over $1 million has been raised for the college and in May 2012, the college thanked the Poet family for its efforts at a ceremony attended by Michigan Gov. Rick Synder.  In her remarks afterward, Arlene told those in attendance, “We are so blessed with all that we have. When you’re blessed, you must share it.”

And share it they do.

As a side note, there is a second business on Jay’s property called General Jim’s Surplus that prides itself in having (according to its website) Michigan’s largest inventory of military surplus, clothing, survival items, BDU’s, tents and generators.

General Jim’s was started by a fine gentleman and a friend of mine named Jim Yost (he is the “Jim” in General Jim, although he wasn’t a general as far as I know). Jim was a widower and, as noted above, Arlene Poet was a widow.  Both attended a local church called Brown Corners United Brethren a few miles north of the stores.  One thing led to another and Jim and Arlene were married and the two of them—like the businesses they helped start—are doing very well.

Jay’s Sporting Goods
8800 S. Clare Avenue
Clare, Michigan 48617    
Clare Store: 989-386-3475
Gaylord Store: 989-705-1339

General Jim’s Surplus
8810 S. Clare Avenue
Clare, Michigan 48617


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