Goshen bait store operator calling it quits
Posted: 02/24/2013 at 8:45 am
By: Tim Vandenack
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Ernie Borntrager, right, assists a customer, Paul Bulva, on Saturday. Borntrager, owner of the Goshen bait shop Travel Tender, plans to retire and close the store on Sunday after 34 years operating it. (Truth Photo By Tim Vandenack)
Ernie Borntrager at his Goshen bait shop Travel Tender on Saturday. He plans to retire and close the shop on Sunday after 34 years (Truth Photo By Tim Vandenack)
Ernie Borntrager, left, assists a customer, Paul Bulva, on Saturday. Borntrager, owner of the Goshen bait shop Travel Tender, plans to retire and close the store on Sunday after 34 years operating it. (Truth Photo By Tim Vandenack)
He turns 72 on Sunday, Feb. 24, and that’ll also mark his last day of business after a 34-year run as owner of the bait and tackle shop.
“Two weeks ago I was apprehensive. But I’m getting anxious to do it now,” Borntrager said. Crickets, which he sells as fish bait, chirped in the background.
When the dust settles, Borntrager and wife Laverda plan to visit Alaska, taking the back roads. Then there’s family to visit, six grandkids and three kids — a son in Tennessee, a daughter in Georgia and another daughter in Illinois.
“We’ve got family scattered and it’s time to go take it easy,” said Borntrager, an aficionado of ice fishing.
As such, no more early mornings to open the shop at 7 a.m. each day. No more rousings at 5:45 a.m. by the family cat, at least if they can reprogram the critter’s habits. Laverda Borntrager, who also helped run the store, will have more time to garden and pull weeds, her favorites.
“He’ll be sorely missed by the community,” said Paul Bulva, at the shop early Saturday to get bait for ice fishing. “I know I’m none too happy about it.”
Borntrager, who bought out the store with a partner in 1979, couldn’t find a buyer to take over the shop. Several expressed interest but couldn’t secure financing. Thus, he’ll auction the leftover merchandise and furnishings, while the structure, leased, will revert to something else.
“That’s the question,” Borntrager said, mulling where anglers will go to get their bait. “A lot of people are, not upset, but sad that we’re leaving. Be a void here in Goshen.”
Travel Tender, 1310 Lincolnway East, also stocked fishing poles and other gear along with some boating and recreational vehicle supplies.
Borntrager had worked at a boat manufacturing company, then took a job at Travel Tender in 1975. Four years later, he and a partner bought out the shop. Borntrager became sole owner about a year-and-a-half later.
It wasn’t all about making money. Along the way, Borntrager donated fishing gear to a veteran of the war in Iraq and the Wounded Warriors, a traveling softball team made of military amputees that made a stop in Goshen last summer.
Taking a quick break Saturday morning from customers and the morning newspapers, part of his routine, he was quick to note that he couldn’t do it alone. Wife LaVerda has been instrumental in the business’ success.
“She’s the one that kept it clean and orderly, stocked up,” said Borntrager. “More credit to her than me.”
His 34 years in business notwithstanding, he pshaws talk of being an institution among the bait-and-tackle crowd. “That’s what some people say. I don’t know,” he said.
The auction of the Travel Tender things is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. March 30 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen.
Follow Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack