The Gateway/Pinellas Park Chamber of Commerce recently named Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, which moved to Pinellas Park in 1976, Medium-sized Business of the Year.
PINELLAS PARK – Tucked away on a woodsy lot at 9501 U.S. 19 N. in Pinellas Park, many people driving along the highway don’t even realize there is a retail shop at the location.
Unless they’re the outdoorsy type, that is. The plot of land, obscured by a thick canopy of trees is Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, which is set back far enough from the roadway that passersby often mistake it for a park or campsite.
“We do have people pull up and ask, ‘Where do I hook up my trailer?’” said Doug Jackson, who runs the shop with his brother, Darry.
Their parents, Bill and Harriet Jackson, founded the store in 1946.
“They basically started it by accident,” Doug said.
After serving in the Air Force during World War II, Bill returned to Pinellas County. Through a friend, he learned that MacDill Air Force Base was auctioning Army surplus supplies. Bill dreamed of becoming a builder, but thought, on a lark, that he’d bid on one of the bins.
When he won the bin, inside he found 500 lbs. of rat poison and 2,000 lbs. of laundry bleach. At first he wasn’t sure what he could do with either item. But both had been rationed during the war, and he had no problem unloading the rat poison at local restaurants, and the laundry detergent at local laundromats.
He enjoyed the experience so much, he decided to bid on additional bins – winning office furniture, tents, sleeping bags – selling the items out of his garage. Eventually, Bill and Harriet opened their first store on Fourth Street South in St. Petersburg.
“He wanted to be a builder, but that didn’t happen, because this wound up being more fun for him,” Darry said.
Their first storefront was a small tin building with no air conditioning or heat. They quickly ran out of space and moved to a bigger location across the street in 1950. They again ran out of room and moved down the block again into an even bigger space in 1961.
By then, they’d begun purchasing new camping and outdoors items, and expanded to sell fishing tackle and gear, scuba diving gear and camping equipment. They even began offering scuba lessons, taught by Underwater Demolition Team members at YMCA pools they rented for the classes.
Darry and Doug grew up working in the store. Doug recalls cleaning bayonets with mineral spirits when he was just 5 years old.
“Instead of having babysitters, we came to the store,” Darry said.
The brothers eventually took over scuba lessons at the shop as well.
In 1968, Bill and Harriett purchased 5 acres off U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park. They sat on the land for eight years before breaking ground to build the shop that is located there today. They built a gun range, their own pool for scuba lessons, a ski deck for lessons, classroom space and more.
“This is like our dream store,” Darry said.
The brothers have been running the store since Bill and Harriet passed away in 2014, a little over a month apart.
“We love this place,” Doug said. “It’s the family business.”
Bill Jackson’s was recently honored by the Gateway/Pinellas Park Chamber of Commerce as the Medium-sized Business of the Year.
“Mom and Dad would have been very honored,” Doug said. “They loved this community.”
They also hope to continue to grow their business. The brothers hope to construct an additional building on their property by the end of the year. The store will expand the product lines it offers in this space, including high-quality safes.