NEWPORT — Ty Bilyeu couldn’t contain his laughter when asked during the weekend if he and Stabi Dave’s Bait & Tackle co-owner Dave Clark could have found a time better than this year to open a new business.
“It was a very spur-of-the-moment thing for us,” Bilyeu said. “We were like, ‘hey, let’s do this,’ and then …,”
Bilyeu and Clark are avid local anglers and discovered that a popular Reedsport destination, Ken’s Rod & Reel Repair, was going out of business. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the business landscape, Clark and Bilyeu established Stabi Dave’s at 3807 SE Ash St. in Newport, just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
“Ken (Silva) in Reedsport was known for refurbishing rods and reels,” Stabi Dave’s store manager Jared Houtman said. “He wanted to retire, and we kind of helped him retire earlier this year. We kind of took the inventory from Ken’s Rod and Reels shop and used it as a base to start our own place.”
To put it lightly, opening a new business during the initial stages of a worldwide pandemic was a challenge.
“We weren’t sure at first if we were going to keep it going,” Bilyeu said. “But really, we all just love fishing and decided to go for it. It’s kind of a slow work in progress.”
Visitors who spend a minute or two inside the spacious store will notice a full jewelry-store-style case of reels, fishing rods stashed throughout the sales floor and hanging from the ceiling, and a colorful variety of weights and lures.
Houtman said Stabi Dave’s, open Thursdays through Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., caters to recreational and sport anglers of all skill and experience levels. He bragged the business “is definitely No. 1” when it comes to bait supply and variety of products and services available.
“Our bait selection is really unique,” Houtman said. “We offer IQF (individually quick frozen) shrimp, which you can’t really find anywhere on the coast. Our customers love our variety of different flashers, we have a lot of weights and flutters … we’re really trying to be a one-stop shop for all your gear.”
Stabi Dave’s also rents crab pots and soon will offer in-store rod and reel repair services.
Despite current economic conditions, Stabi Dave’s seeks to fill a void left in August, when Newport Bayfront staple Harry’s Bait & Tackle closed its doors for owner Randy Druba’s retirement.
“People come visit here and start searching online for a bait shop, and Harry’s is usually the first one to pop up. We’re like a second or third option once people realize that Harry’s is closed,” Houtman said. “I think there’s just a been a longtime tradition with decades of Harry’s being the place to go. We’re trying to supplement that with a change to us. We’re not there yet, but give us next fishing season, and I think we’ll almost be right there.”