The World's Largest Rocking Chair and the attractive building brings customers in, but quality service keeps them returning
Article and photos by Jane Reed
The Route 66 Outpost Archery Center, just off Missouri I-44 at exit 203, makes a big impression when you first pull into the parking lot–a really big impression. Outside is the Guinness World Record World’s Largest Rocking Chair that, at 42’ tall and 27,500 pounds, looms over the rustic cedar building. When they opened in 2008, Dan and Carolyn Sanazaro felt their Fanning Outpost 66 General Store needed a roadside attraction to draw customers to their store that was 4 miles west of Cuba, MO on old Route 66. Since Dan likes to do things in a big way, he dreamed up the chair, and had two friends design and build it. The mega-draw has been bringing tourists and locals ever since.
The Outpost’s front porch offers a welcoming collection of locally built furniture for relaxing and watching the traffic go by on Route 66. Before the Sanazaros rehabbed the building, at different times it housed a gas station, a bar, and a community building at the Fanning, MO crossroads, where the Frisco train had at one time dropped off and picked up mail on the “mail hook” as it went by.
The Outpost’s interior is a revelation too. It is a clean, artfully arranged combination of general store with WiFi, Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs, lodge-style décor items and art, sporting goods, taxidermy mounts, and whatever else Dan and his wife Carolyn think make interesting additions to their inventory. Dan also said, “And we have the cleanest rest rooms on Route 66.”
As you might imagine from a person who would think of building a 42’ rocking chair to attract business, and a wife who would let him do it, the Sanazaros are an outgoing, fun-loving couple who love to meet customers and travelers who stop at their business. They have a family enterprise with their two teenagers helping out, and a staff that has become family.
Although the presence of the rocking chair draws many travelers and media attention complete with video crews, it is the core business that brings in and keeps new customers.
Dan saw the need for an archery shop in the area when he was trying to find a part for his bow after the opening day of archery season and he went to several shops that were closed. “At that point, the idea of a seven day a week archery center was born,” said Dan. The Center is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday, and from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday. Archery technicians are on duty any time they are open.
As you move down the back hall of the general store, you enter the bow retail and repair center and are introduced to the fourplex of archery ranges than have increasingly met the needs of area archery enthusiasts. A side door leads to the rear of the building and the 60-yard outdoor range, which was the first range built when Dan and Carolyn opened the Fanning 66 Outpost.
The 3D archery range is a new challenge at the Outpost Archery Center
But since Dan likes to do things big when he does them, the next project was a well-lit 20-yard heated and cooled indoor range. Then they added the Techno Hunt video range that provides all kinds of fun for shooters, both young and old. The most recent range is a 40-yard indoor range with a 3D target course that includes elk, caribou, Billy goats, mule deer, whitetail deer, fox, ram, and many other targets. The staff is glad to help shooters get oriented to any of the ranges so that the good times can begin.
The Outpost Archery Center is a full service repair and sales center as well. Besides Dan, Jeff Sansone and Billy Horn are qualified archery technicians who work at the Outpost. One is always on duty to help with questions about equipment, change a string, or get you set up on that new bow. Both technicians are currently training for their archery safety instructor course through the Missouri Department of Conservation. By next year, they hope to offer certification for archery safety.
On their days off, the technicians offer lessons, which help customers perfect their skills or help a beginner get the right start in the sport. Rental equipment is available if someone wants to try archery without making a big financial commitment. Of course, many who start on the rental equipment are soon hooked on the sport and purchase their own gear. The Center does take trade-ins and has lay away and financing with approved credit.
Dan says, “A lot of times people may be intimidated by going to an archery shop because they may get the feeling that they don’t know what to say or that they are not proficient enough at the sport. I know this because I have felt like this myself when going to other shops in the past.”
The Outpost staff is friendly and ready to serve the customer's needs. L-R: Dan Sanazaro, Carolyn Sanazaro, Billy Horn, Lane Sanazaro, Jeff Sansone, Dustin Doyle, Erica Hederle, and Jackie Sansone
Dan and his employees pride themselves on answering all questions patiently and taking the time for anyone who has a question about the ranges or equipment. They often have tourists come in from the general store who have come to see the rocking chair and the store, who have no knowledge of archery. But they still take time with them, and especially their children who are fascinated with the archery range. The center’s staff realizes that they are ambassadors for the sport, as well as staff at the center.
“When we opened this shop, I made it clear to everyone that we are here to serve our customers whether they are professionals or beginners, whether they know everything, or nothing,” Dan stated. He went on to add, “Sometimes I even catch myself using terms that I can tell the customer may not understand, so I always put myself in the customer’s shoes and try to relate on the level at which they are shooting.”
Jeff Sansone mans the archery shop counter, which is a gathering place at the center.
“Archery is a growing sport for all ages from 4 to 90+, man, woman, or child,” remarked Dan whose wife and two children are involved in the sport. “We have women, men, and children on any given day stop in to have fun on one the four ranges. I guess the oldest person who shoots here is Winston Parkinson who is 90 years young. Last year Winston shot at the senior Olympics in California and took second place.”
Things always get busier at the Outpost Center with the approach of bow season, but activities and events are planned throughout the year to help maintain skills and interest in archery. “We run a 30-week 3D league, which begins in January and ends in October. It’s a jackpot league with no carry over scoring so everybody is even each week. All you need to qualify for the championship round in October is to shoot at least 15 of the 30 matches.” Dan and Carolyn’s high school son Lane and his friend Dustin Doyle help out with the leagues. On weekends they cut arrows and set up shooters on the ranges and assist with scoring.
September 15th brings in the Bow Hunting Season and along with that are the deer brought by for photos, and the stories that are related about how they were taken. Then the deer are taken next door to the Taxidermy Center. Originally, Dan and Carolyn owned the Taxidermy Center, and it was in their main building. Dan’s nephew John Moreland ran the business with Dan’s help. But they needed the space for archery expansion, so it was moved to a small building next door. Then Dan got so busy with the archery business that he sold the Outpost Taxidermy Center to John and his wife Alexis.
Dan and Carolyn’s daughter Lacey, who is also in high school, helps out at the many special events that are held at the Outpost General Store and Archery Center such as the Picture at the Rocker Day, when people are lifted up to the seat of the rocker for photos, and the 4-mile Race to the Rocker, where participants run from downtown Cuba 4 miles to the Rocker finish line. Technician Jeff Sansone’s wife Jackie works up front at the general store and checks out customers and answers many questions about the business and the surrounding area.
When the Center has its Annual Iron Buck Tournament Shoot in September, the entire Outpost Staff is on duty to make it a successful, smooth-running event. The event brings shooters in from surrounding states for the one-day tournament/customer appreciation day. The Sanazaros provide a BBQ lunch for all shooters, many customers, and friends who drop by to watch the fun.
Future plans are to add additional quality bowlines as they come available and add more archery-related inventory. “We are working on a web based business site also, with the help of the Rolla, MO tech school, which we hope to have implemented by spring, 2011,” Dan said. “We plan to be a specialized resource for archery and anything archery-related. We don’t know everything and probably never will, but we will continue to grow in expertise through training and the old fashioned school of hard knocks.”
The Sanazaros’ family business has grown on a commitment to quality and service. They are imaginative entrepreneurs with a flair for the unexpected, and we can expect “big things” in the future.