Becky Bieker’s new store hasn’t yet put its main line of merchandise on display. There’s been no grand opening, and she’s still waiting for a banner sign for the 1,300-square-foot shop across the street and to the east of Shawnee’s City Hall.
Even so, She’s a Pistol, at 5725 Nieman Road, has attracted a huge amount of attention from welcoming supporters and wary nearby businesses alike.
That’s because She’s a Pistol is a gun store. A gun store catering to women.
Its relative uniqueness to the area has brought television crews, newspaper reporters and the occasional visitor who just wants to stop by and express support, said Bieker.
“I had a couple of people drive over from Belton,” she said. “At least as many men as women have been walking in to welcome me to the area and congratulate me.”
Not everyone has welcomed the store with open arms, however. Some business owners worry that a firearms store could detract from the image they have worked hard to create for the downtown Shawnee business district.
Bieker, of Gardner, was waiting last week for the final approval of her federal license. Until that happens, she cannot sell guns. Although there are no firearms in the display case, the store already is open and has a variety of self-defense related items for sale, including knives, concealed carry bags and even camo-patterened women’s swimwear.
She envisions her store as a place where female shoppers don’t have to feel shy about asking questions. And she’ll also offer gun safety and concealed carry classes.
The presence of a gun store so near a revitalized downtown raised several eyebrows among other business owners who said that it may be a magnet for break-ins.
Heidi Hullman-Davis, whose family owns Dodge City Beef, has some reservations. She said she grew up with guns and shooting. But “Shawnee has put a lot of money and time into the overall cuteness,” of its downtown, she said.
Some of Bieker’s critics have softened since they first heard about it.
Elaine Copp, owner of Mattes Appraisal Co. in downtown Shawnee, wrote a letter to the City Council Aug. 4 saying she was “appalled and disappointed” and urging them to deny the city permits. But since then she has reconsidered to an extent, she said.
Copp said she had no problem with guns or gun ownership. But she still wonders whether a gun store is a good fit for the downtown area. A location on Shawnee Mission Parkway or Quivira Road might have been more appropriate, she said.
Since the letter, Copp has met Bieker and changed her opinion a little bit. She said she plans to sign up for Bieker’s concealed carry class and get to know her better.
Bieker hopes the critics will be won over, once they get to know her and her store. “We are truly here to be an asset,” she said. Her licenses and permits require extra security requirements to guard against theft, she said.
She’s a Pistol has sold weapons over the Internet and at shows since 2009. She sees her business as a way for women, who are sometimes marginalized at traditional firearms and hunting stores, to feel comfortable.
This comes from personal experience, she said. Bieker, familiar with guns since childhood, had trouble finding a holster that fit when she would shop for guns as an adult. Then there was the condescension. “They’d say, ‘Here sweety, have the pink one because it’s pretty,’ ” she said.
Not that Bieker minds a pink gun. She owns a lavender revolver. And a child-sized single-shot .22 rifle with a hot pink stock was the equivalent of the unobtainable Barbie Dream House or Easy Bake Oven for her as a child, she said.
Still. “I don’t want to be told that’s the reason I should buy it. Because of its color,” she said.
Although Bieker studied business management in college, she said she became especially interested in self defense after a bad domestic experience. “I was lucky to get out of it and move on,” she said. It was that experience that convinced her that arms and self-defense items were not just good to have, but necessary.
“I want to help people protect themselves,” Bieker said. “I want to see someone be safe.”