Rivers and Glen advances culture and traditions of hunting and fishing
By Patra Taylor
For 15 years, Francisco Bergaz pursued his career in the food and beverage industry with the hard work and determination taught him by his parents. When his responsibilities allowed, he’d slipped away to indulge in his real passion — hunting and fishing. A few years ago, after meeting Walker Hopkins at Brays Island, a hunting and fishing community located on the Broad River between Beaufort and Savannah, Bergaz’s perspective regarding how he earned his living began to change. Was it possible that his abiding passion for the great outdoors instilled in him during his youth could also be his work? Hopkins, his new friend, was living proof that it could.
In 1999, the original Rivers and Glen Trading Company opened in Augusta, Georgia, an Orvis-endorsed retail store primarily selling fly-fishing and hunting apparel. One day, Hopkins, who worked in the store, mentioned to the owner that he’d like to buy the store if she ever decided to sell it. That day finally arrived.
“He did great with that first location in Augusta, slowly implementing his own ideas into the store concept,” says Bergaz, who is now Hopkins’ business partner. “Three years later, Walker expanded into Savannah, and did so successfully. That store is located behind the Olde Pink House in the heart of Savannah’s tourist district.”
In the months following their first introduction, the two men’s friendship grew as they considered the possibilities of what they could do together to advance the culture and traditions of hunting and fishing. “We are both big on conservation because we understand we are merely stewards of our natural resources. With so much technology being pushed on our children, we’ve found that if they never really connect with nature, they’re not going to be inclined to protect it later. When we take children out fishing and hunting, and they have an amazing time, they suddenly have that emotional connection … that bond with nature. They’ll protect it, and they will one day elect officials who, in turn, will protect it.”
A couple of years ago, Hopkins and Bergaz teamed up to take the Rivers and Glen brand to the next level. Even though Hopkins had already expanded his stores’ offerings, they decided to add sporting gunrooms to the two locations. Then the search for a location in the Charleston area began in earnest.
During the 2022 Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Rivers and Glen officially opened its third store at a location on Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant next to Shem Creek. The store is managed by Owen Plair, an experienced guide who shares the owners’ passion for the great outdoors.
A beautifully displayed retail space has hunting and fishing apparel — top brands including Orvis, AFTCO, Barbour and Fish Hippie — for those ages 14 to 80. “That’s a big demographic,” admits Bergaz. “Because we want hunting and fishing available to everyone, we offer great clothing and gear priced from the mid-range on up.”
The newest location of Rivers and Glen features a fully stocked fly-fishing room and sporting gunroom. “Again,” states Bergaz, “we’re not catering exclusively to high-end customers. We offer sporting guns priced from $800 up to $16,000. Our team can help ensure that whatever a customer buys fits their needs and budget.”
With deer and dove seasons in striking distance, the store is in a prime position to serve the sporting community, but they are also keen to pull in the aesthetics of what they love.
For example, the Mount Pleasant store has established a partnership with the Sportsman Gallery on King Street. “I love their art and own piece of it myself,” says Bergaz. “They agreed to hang their art here and we sell it for them, commission-free.” The store has also partnered with a local decoy collector, whose pieces are available for sale. In addition, it offers duck calls, consignment sporting guns and much more for the hunting and fishing enthusiast.
“Walker and I realize that retail is tough because ecommerce is so available. People can order whatever they need online, but you’re not getting the experience of talking to somebody who can recommend the best gear for the best value. Every product we have, we stand behind it because we’ve vetted it. Walker and I go on trips to places in Canada and Alaska, the West Coast, Argentina, where we put our products through the test. We don’t what to sell anything that’s not the best quality.
“We’re not just a retail store,” he continues. “We provide casting lessons, and fly-tying clinics. We’ve already completed a couple of conservations events, one with Quail Forever and another with Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, with other events coming up including those with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the National Deer Association. We plan to sponsor events like these throughout the year.”
According to Bergaz, Rivers and Glen recently expanded into outfitting, with two successful two adventures last spring. “We’re offering hosted trips throughout the year. We’ve partnered with other outfitters we’ve vetted ourselves … we don’t recommend trips if we haven’t been on them. Every year our trips will change to keep it interesting. We started with fly-fishing trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but we have our eyes on offering trips to other great places such as Colorado, Alaska and Canada. For example, we’ve got a partner in Manitoba with two great cabins. They offer fly-fishing for pike, moose hunting and bear hunting. It’s a trip I’ve been on, and it’s phenomenal.
“Rivers and Glen encompasses the whole culture. Walker and I aren’t doing this because we want to impress anybody. We’re doing it because it’s who we are. It’s our brand. It’s what we believe in.”
A columnist and features correspondent since its early days, Patra Taylor currently serves as the Mercury’s managing editor.