FLORA — To the casual onlooker, news of Primos’ Hunting Calls moving into a new 54,000-square-foot building in the Flora Industrial Park this May is simply a sign of progress.
But to Jackson native Will Primos, it’s a significant milestone made possible by the company’s 82 employees.
“I am not this company. The employees are the company and they made this happen. It’s important for people to know that,” said Primos, founder and president of Primos’ Hunting Calls.
Since Primos began making calls in his backyard workshop in 1976, Primos’ Hunting Calls has garnered national and international fame. The company now makes about 260 products, which include award-winning game calls, instructional cassettes, CDs, video, clothing and other hunting accessories, that are sold through 6,000 dealers and distributors throughout North America and Europe. The products are available at Wal-Mart, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, L.L. Bean and other retailers.
With the move, operations from the company’s three Jackson locations will be consolidated at the new facility, which will feature a product showroom and later possibly a retail outlet.
“Consolidating operations was an important move,” Primos said. “We looked for space for four years before we finally found an ideal site in Flora. Chip Estes and Jerry Acy with the Madison County Economic Development Authority and Flora Mayor Jw Richardson were the main reasons we were attracted to the Flora Industrial Park. They made it easy to work out infrastructure details needed to support our organization.”
The facility, being built by Copeland & Johns Inc. General Contractors of Jackson, was originally designed for 43,000 square feet, and then was bumped up 11,000 square feet. There’s space available to expand another 51,000 square feet, Primos said.
“After we see what happens once we move in, we’ll decide whether or not to expand into different products,” he said.
Primos’ fascination with hunting calls began soon after he tagged along with his uncle, Billy Primos, on his first deer-hunting trip at the age of eight. By the time he was 11, Primos had crafted his first duck call.
Primos, who grew up in the family restaurant business, began moonlighting after college graduation by making and selling hunting calls. After testing Primos’ calls on hunting trips, family friends Buck Dearman and Warren Hood and Primos’ uncle, Gus Primos, encouraged him to market them nationally.
“In 1983, Jim Dollarhide and I went out into the field, recorded turkey hunts and put it on an audio tape,” he said. “From that, I ran my first national ad, which was a huge success. It was a vote of confidence I needed to go forward.”
In 1988, with a $280,000 line of credit from then First National Bank (now Trustmark), Primos left the restaurant business, sold his interest to the family, and established Primos’ Hunting Calls.
“For a long time, I didn’t draw a salary, because everything went back into the business,” he said. “At the same time, I was reading books and studying ways to position the product in the marketplace and grow a company in a way to sustain product quality. I knew I had to surround myself with good people.”
Primos hired his cousin, Jimmy Primos, now COO and executive vice president, who divided the company into seven departments and began handpicking the staff. One of the first moves was hiring Ronnie Strickland of Natchez to make a tape for national distribution. When ESPN picked it up, the company was launched nationally.
“We called it ‘The TRUTH,’ because the few hunting videos available at that time were faked,” Primos said. “They didn’t show a fair chase and people were taking shortcuts to get them made. We did what we as hunters wanted to see and be a part of.”
“The TRUTH“ series expanded to include videos of turkey, deer and elk hunts, now best sellers in its market.
During the initial growth period, Primos patented calls he created and searched for others with innovative designs to patent, trademark and produce. Since then, a dozen patents have been issued and 14 trademarks have been registered. Four patents are pending and four patent applications are being processed, including one for the company’s latest invention, the “Hoochie Mama,” an elk call that has become extremely popular in the U.S. Primos has roughly 200 common-law trademarks.
“The company has moved along one step at a time as we made sure we had the right people in place to move forward,” said Primos. “We hired Lorena Ramos nine years ago, who is now on the board of directors. She has held almost every job in the company and is a huge part of putting it all together. Hope Wilson, our CIO, really streamlined operations after she hooked us up electronically with all the major players in the U.S. and Canada.”
The company does all of its own production in-house. Graphic artists Cherie Fisher and Jason Fortune produce Primos’ catalog, which is printed by K&W Inc. in Flowood. The production department, headed by Brad Farris, features four Macs and two Avid suites, staffed by two full-time editors.
Last year, Primos acquired a 30-minute time slot on The Outdoor Channel to air “The TRUTH About Hunting” and to sell advertising to other manufacturers. Since the show debuted last January, it has won three of the TV channel’s four Golden Moose awards for categories in which they were eligible, including the Viewer’s Choice Award. Every year, 26 new shows air on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., with repeat shows Sunday and Friday.
The hunting calls for turkey, deer, elk, waterfowl, predator and other game have also won numerous awards through the National Wild Turkey Federation and national and international trade magazines, consistently chosen as reader’s favorites.
Primos predicted the company’s products would generate $54 million in retail sales this year.
“In 1998, our revenues grew 20.6%, then 45.6% in 1999, 34.8% in 2000 and 27.8% in 2001,” he said. “Our budgeted growth for 2002 is 15%.”
Primos stays so busy with product development and promotions that he doesn’t get to hunt as often as he’d like.
“Not as often as most people think I do,” he said. “I’m not going to get to hunt turkeys this spring because we’re too busy with the move. I’ll be gone the entire month of September though, producing a hunting video.”
When he has time during hunting season, Primos usually heads to the Mississippi River or the Midwest to hunt whitetail deer. But the company — and its employees — remain his first priority, he said.
“My policy is to take care of the employees and vendors and they’ll take care of the customer,” he said. “I call it putting the company on autopilot. Sure, I get to sign the caps and calls, but without this team, I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org</a.