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Store front experience...AG Russel knives

Oct 4, 1998
I have been meaning to write a snippet about my latest visit to AG Russell's storefront for some time, but just haven't gotten around to it. Forgot about it completely until I started reading a thread about gun-show knife dealer ignorance. I should preface this by saying that this is only my personal experience and is not meant to either condemn or demean anyone, and is mainly in response to a few postings by folks from Spyderco about the value of customer service.

At the end of this last semester, I decided to make the short drive from Fayetteville up highway 71 to Springdale, Arkansas and visit AG Russell's storefront. If any of your haven't been there in a long while, it is still in the same general location, but the store has moved from the old small white house into a space that consolidates the retail space with AG's mail order operations and warehouse. The public retail area is small, with three normal sized glass display cases, like one normally sees in any knife or gun shop. I was expecting that most everything in the catalog would be on display. Not so, seemed in fact that over half of the stock was not on display at all. I asked a salesperson to see a Kershaw Random Task. The salesperson had no idea what knife I was talking about. I pointed it out in a catalog, and the reply was, "well, that's what it looks like." Okay, the whole point of store front is to be able to handle the perspective knife, right?

So I moved on, and asked about the new Benchmade knives, the Pinnacle and Axis. Again, two dumb stares from the sales help. They had no idea that Benchmade had released anything new, and tried to convince me that I actually had the Sentinel in mind. At this point I decided to keep my questions to myself and just peruse the cases. Hoped to see some interesting pieces, but was only met with the standard fare that one would find at most gun shows, with the exception of a few Dozier fixed blades.

Having heard much about the EDI Genesis, I asked to see one from the case. Again, the salesperson had no idea what knife I meant, and I ended up having to point the knife out. Will, I know you spend a lot of time around the forum so I hope you read this. The Genesis as far as I can tell was one of the first run, white washer. This may be wrong, I concede to the experts on this one. Anyway, the white washered Genesis felt about as smooth as a sand encrusted boy scout pocket knife found in a sea wall, and the grind was uneven. If I had a storefront, I would never hand a knife like this to a customer. I know from the feedback on the forum that the Genesis is a good knife and backed by fine service. But a customer not knowing that, would never buy this knife. It hurts the shop buy letting a sale go, and hurts the maker by putting sub par examples on display. Okay, I asked if they had any of the newer series, with the bronze washers. Again, the help looked at me like I had six heads, and replied that was a "new" knife.

At this point I felt like asking to see AG and ask him for a job. I am just shocked that some one so involved in the knife community would keep help that didn't know anything about knives. I realize that 99% of his sales are catalog/internet, but that is just it. A storefront has high prices, and you are supposedly paying for superior service. Why buy from a local outfit, when you can email someone who knows exactly what you want, and is willing to work with you until you receive it?

So, in conclusion I think that it a terrible mistake my knife companies to attempt to try to limit internet sales, especially using an argument that is so bogus as that of the informative/service rich storefront knife shop. Those who own such stores and are knowledgeable and go out of their way for their customers, this is not in any way directed at you.

The cutter (not the freaking ELU! I wonder if someone at Spyderco spent too long in military or something. The armed forces are always coming up with new and inventive ways to depersonalize people) is where the rubber meets the road.

Thanks for the heads up on the sample at AG russell's. All of the GENESIS series 'sold' to AG Russell have been of the current 'bronze washer era' GENESIS knives. They only only knives sent to them with teflon washers were 2 VERY early 'samples' for photographic needs. These were pre-production knives and not intended for resale. They do have current GENESIS knives in stock. I will mention to Goldie, AG's wife whom I usually work with, your bad experience. I know that AG's mail order business has an EXCELLENT customer service record, and that AG will usually talk your ear off about knives. Mr. Russell has been in the mail order specialty culery biz longer that anyone else[hell, as long as I've been ALIVE], he didn't get there by poor service. The only thing I can suggest is that if you ever go back, ask to see AG, and I'm sure that you will get a more knowledgeable salesperson. Thanks again for the alert, ...and thanks for asking to see the GENESIS knives.

Stay Sharp!
Will Fennell
President-EDI Knives
I first got into knives half a year ago while looking for a gift for my father, who is a deer hunter and has been using the same knife with a broken off tip for 15 years. I went into one of the two places that sell actual knives and not KSOs, and stumbled across a TiNi Buck Crosslock Hunter, and asked the salesperson to see it. He handed it to me and stood there impatiently while I inspected it and asked him about it. He knew nothing, didn't know what a gut hook was, said that the gold coating was "mainly for looks", and was basically useless. I noted the $110 price tag, which was in my price range, but decided to do some more research.

So I spent several hours online on Buck's page, as well as checking some other resources, and decided to go with the Crosslock after all, finding it, as it happens, on A.G. Russell's online catalog, for $35 less than they wanted here in town, complete with real info about the piece (most of which I had already found elsewhere, but confirmation was nice). And I bought it, thinking that if Internet commerce kills local businesses, it'll be because they deserved it.

Along the same lines, the only Spyderco "dealer" in town know exactly nil about the knives they sell, many of which they must've had for a very long time, being in some cases two or three revisions behind the current ones Spyderco has listed on their site. And their prices are not that great either. So now that I've decided to start collecting, and have done dozens of hours of my own research, why should I feel guilty buying the knive from a person online who knows what he's selling, for 20% less than some complacent idiot in town whose eyes glaze over when I ask him what kind of -steel- the blade is made out of?
The thing is your average walk in knife shop or counter at a big store are usually manned by people making min wage. These people see this as a temp. job certainly not a career for the money it pays.I wonder how many of us could even afford the knives we purchase if we worked for Wal-Mart or some small one man shop.It would be nice to think that all the people on this forum also work in the knife industry but not so. If a company is paying low wages with no incentive it will attract people who really are only looking for a paycheck and nothing more.Years ago I was offered a job at a cutlery shop and laughed at the money that was offered.The only good part of it was the discount but that doesn't pay the rent.