After being laid off, new businessman taking a slice of cutlery pie

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó Terry Rollins was 56 when he was laid off from Freightliner on April 1, 2007. Now, nearly four years later, Rollins says it might be the best thing that ever happened to him ó aside from getting married, the birth of his son and being saved.
That April Foolís Day, Rollins felt like the fool. He had tried for three years to get on at Freightliner, after a career in construction. He was with the company for one year before he was laid off. It was the first time in his working life he had ever been unemployed.
ěI was just uncomfortable,î says Rollins. Since he was 16 and had his first job at Humdingerís Dairy Bar in Kannapolis, heís been employed. After collecting unemployment for six weeks, Rollins decided enough was enough.
ěI was sitting at home trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, like many men laid off,î says Rollins. It was late and an infomercial for knives came on television. ěA bulb went off.î
ěI decided if I was going to start a business, now was the time,î says Rollins.
Thatís when he started The Knife Shop.
With $600 worth of inventory, he bought a couple of tents and tables and set up shop ó in his front yard. Drive-by customers were soon netting him $600-$700 per week in income and it was time to move into a more permanent location.
First, he moved in at Carolina Mall, but found that the rent was too high for what he was accomplishing in sales. He then moved to a small, ěcloset-likeî location on North Cannon Boulevard. And at the beginning of the year, Rollins found himself moving again, just down the street on North Cannon Boulevard to a larger location.
Moving to the larger location has been a blessing for Rollins, who credits the Lord and his wife, Mona, a warehouse manager at Shoe Show Corp., for his success.
Rollins had started out with cheaper, ěflea-marketî type knives.
At the Charlotte Gun Show, he was put next to an older man who had been in the business awhile. That man took Rollins under his wing, shared secrets of the trade, including the best places to get inventory, and Rollins turned that advice into customer satisfaction and repeat customers.
Lately, Rollins said, heís started catering to women a little more in his inventory. Along with military-grade to pocket-type knives and air pistols and rifles, Rollins started carrying self-defense items ń stun guns, Tasers, pepper spray and other self-protection tools.
But the biggest draw for women, he says, is his expansion into kitchen items. Currently, he carries top grade chef knives and kitchen gadgets, and soon hopes to expand into an entire section of kitchen goods ó everything from cookware and gadgets to utensils. Heíll soon have a whole section dedicated to kitchen items.
ěCompeting against the Internet and the big stores Ö itís hard,î says Rollins.
Richard Spake of Mooresville walked into The Knife Store on Tuesday morning to pass some time. He was in Kannapolis to get the sights fixed on a couple of guns at another store and saw Rollinsí store as he was driving by.
Spake was happy with Rollinsí selection of American-made items, and bought two knives. Rollins said itís common for people to come in spur-of-the-moment and walk out with a knife or other item.
ěSince Iíve moved here (to the larger location), Iíve had more first time customers in three months than I had in three years,î says Rollins. ěI believe the Lord is looking out for me.î
Rollins said he doesnít spend any money on advertising, and most of his customers are by word of mouth or walk-ins like Spake. By the end of the year, heíll double his inventory, he predicts.
Rollins has no employees. He tries to put all his profits back into stocking the shelves and helping people get the best possible deals.
His business theory is ěyou make a dollar, you spend a dollar.î
One of the most important things he wants customers to come away from when visiting The Knife Store is that they donít have to be intimidated by knives and self-protection items.
ěA lot of people are intimidated by even the thought of knives,î says Rollins.
They think that knives found in stores like his lead to stabbings. But Rollins says kitchen cutlery is used most of the time in domestic and violent stabbings.
ěThey were a tool first, (used for) hunting and survival, then they were a tool of self-defense.î