By Ford Walpole

Fortunately for sporting enthusiasts planning for the fall hunting season, Circle Seven Outpost & Provisions recently set up shop at the Old Cigar Factory in Charleston. This charming outfitter is hardly your big-box store. The gun room is lined with Berettas, as well as English firearms from Royal Warrant Holders Association members James Purdey & Sons and William & Son.

To enrich the sporting experience, exclusive purveyors of gear and clothing are represented: Circle Seven Private Label, Sitka Gear, Stantt, Dunbar, Orvis and Seeland. Really Wild has been sported by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Wren & Ivy bags are handmade in Leone, Mexico and products include grooming kits, expedition dog bowls, embossed leather gun slings and practically designed shotgun shell belts.

Perfection in outdoor sports is an art, which the shop’s rustic decor reflects. Exotic big game mounts survey the store. These trophies were harvested by Circle Seven general manager Jack Pickering and Gertrude Sanford Legendre, grandmother of Charleston’s Pierre Manigault. Patrons may purchase framed artwork hanging from the Charleston-brick and clapboard walls. Upstairs, a dovecote, or pigeonnier, supports the catwalk connecting Circle Seven to the Garden & Gun Boiler Room.

The sporting world has never been constrained by socioeconomic fences and the high-end Circle Seven shop reflects this diversity. Sloan McFadden, the corporate brand manager, explains the mindset of owner Will Pace: “While these top gun makers and clothing manufacturers abroad respect him, Will wants his stores to be accessible to everyone. Anybody who has any interest in the outdoors is welcome in our doors. If you don’t leave with a Purdey shotgun, come in and buy a Cotton Brothers hat.”

The flagship store in Madison, Mississippi is the realized dream of Mississippi native Will Pace. Will, a Southern gentleman with a humble sincerity, recalls the wilderness that reared him and would influence Circle Seven: “We had, at one time, the world’s largest Kraft paper mill just outside of our town on the river. There were timber tracts for many miles in any direction — tracts so big nobody in the corporate office would know a couple of brothers were riding around them in an old Willys Jeep.

“Nearly my whole childhood smelled like fresh-cut pine timber, mud and 90-weight gear oil. I remember killing my first wood duck one evening on the river, with a Browning A-5 Light Twenty. What’s crazy is I was 14 and drove myself out there in a car that I bought, with my friend who was 11. At the time, it was as normal as any other day.”

Southern family roots provide the charm for Circle Seven and indeed spawned the store’s name, which symbolizes Will and his six siblings. He notes, “The store would not exist without some input from each one of them in some way or another, whether it’s financial, decor, market buying, merchandising or ringing up sales and turning out the lights.

“The name Circle Seven is much more than just a nod to my immediate family but to the generations before and hopefully in the future, who ground it out and tried for the best. And, we’re all really close, like a covey of sorts. If it ever becomes Circle Six, or Circle Five you’ll know we had a falling out!”

Of course, such a family rift is unlikely considering the values instilled by Will’s parents. His upbringing “was not like today for sure. Every Monday through Friday, all nine of us would be at the table by 7:00 a.m. for breakfast, which was always eggs, bacon or sausage, grits and either toast or biscuits. Saturdays was pancakes or waffles.”

The Pace family spent “a lot of time around the table which is probably the single best thing our parents could ever give us. In addition, with a big family there’s lots of give and take. Being born in the early ‘30s our parents, modeled hard work and how to value things.” Will has continued the tradition of a large family, adding four young children of his own. “If they learn from me to do what they love, then they will have learned something valuable.”

Sloan McFadden’s arrival to Circle Seven was as natural a fit as the shop’s clothes and guns. She first met Will at Garden & Gun Jubilee. At the time, she and a partner owned an upland bird hunting clothing company. “I could see Will had a great eye and natural instincts,” she recalls. “He is just so real; he truly lives the lifestyle and always has.”

Sloan, who loves to sling lead from shotguns, relays an example of Will’s genuine character from a recent Garden & Gun Jubilee. “Will met a guy whose wife wanted a jacket, but the husband didn’t have his credit card with him. Will told the man to take the jacket and just call later with the card number. When that guy comes in the store, he remembers Will and he’s a customer for life!” At other times, “Will has loaned guns to customers until their custom orders arrive.”

“We are not just a clothing store with a gun room; our brand is a whole lot more dymanic,” Sloan declares. “We want to be doing things with industry influencers, whether that’s masters of cooking wild game like Jimmy Hagood or premier redfish guides of South Carolina. It’s not just about selling things but encouraging people to buy in to the lifestyle. The second-floor mezzanine will be a home for artisans like Josh Raggio,” who fashions the renowned Raggio Duck calls.

In the near future, Circle Seven will help customers “curate their ultimate sporting vacation, whether it’s from Arkansas to Australia or Scotland to Spain. If you can’t afford to shoot red-leg partridge in Spain, we want to help you go bird hunting in Mexico.”

Will’s business plan is simple, but effective. “We’re like any other good store; we just deliver it through our own lens, which was formed by growing up the way we did, when we did and where we did. The best way for us to differentiate our business is to pay attention, adapt quickly, just be who we are and be the best.”

He discusses the launch of the Charleston store. “We’ve participated in the Garden & Gun Jubilee for several years and always got a really warm welcome and had successful sales there. Our Madison market is good and of course, we wouldn’t be where we are now without that local support over the years. But Charleston has a much broader base, not to mention visitors. Home is home and I’ll stay there, but I consider it an honor and a pleasure to be located in and to visit Charleston.”

Besides scouting the stores in Charleston and Madison, Mississippi, customers may shop online at circle7online.com. Sloan adds, “We are getting ready to launch a Circle Seven app for iPhones. You simply set up an account like you would through PayPal, Venmo, or Amazon, browse, buy and check out. It’s completely secure and all the gear you need is at your fingertips!”

Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.