Dave and Angie Russell of Highflyer Arms, Flying High Engraving, and Quilting Essentials & More
Photos by Christine Craddock
Dave and Angie Russell have a lot going on. With three businesses under one roof and one LLC, they have the opportunity to do what they love. The result is their Highflyer Arms, Flying High Engraving, and Quilting Essentials & More, all in one shop in Old Town Warrenton.
Dave served in the Air Force, and their two daughters grew up all over the world. Dave retired from the military in 2013, and then became a government contractor. Like so many, he tired of the commute, and Angie says, “We’d visited Warrenton occasionally and liked the small, old town feel. We were able to find a reasonably priced house, and moved out here 11 years ago.”
The shop started originally with the firearms in 2011. A lifelong hobby for Dave, he started shooting at a young age and was on the Rifle Team in High School. “I couldn’t really continue it easily in the Air Force, but when I started my contracting job, I needed a hobby and picked it up again,” he says. That hobby grew into a part-time business, then a full time one after he retired. The shop is named after the planes Dave flew in the Air Force, the U-2.
The shop’s principal products are firearms. Dave says, “We stock all kinds of firearms, from self defense handguns to shotguns to target rifles and pistols to hunting rifles, and anything in between. We also stock ammunition and accessories such as silencers.” As a gunsmith, Dave also offers repairs. They also take care of legal aspects of firearm ownership, such as background checks, and can take special orders and transfers.
“We always try to center on customer service, keep the customer happy, and build a nice relationship and take care of them, instead of just selling them things. We try to find out what they’re looking for as far as a gun, and why they want it, so we can advise on the right weapon,” Dave says. Safety is paramount at Highflyer Arms. In some cases, when he feels that a customer is not ready for a firearm, he won’t sell it. He explains, “Just because you come in wanting a rifle doesn’t mean we’re going to sell it to you. We might tell you that you need to do some training first. Telling people ‘no’ is difficult, but I have to think, at what cost as far as safety goes? Part of the business is educating the customers. If you’re wanting a handgun for self-defense, you need to be prepared for it. If your life feels threatened you need to be capable —— and mentally prepared —— to use it properly. If you’re not willing to do that, you need to reevaluate and choose another method of self defense.”
Flying High Engraving
So Highflyer Arms became a successful firearms shop. Then what happened? “Well, since Dave has a manufacturing license, he has to be able to engrave on guns they produce,” Angie says, “So we figured, why not buy the engraving machine and do it ourselves?” Which is just what happened in 2018. And then, they thought, why not engrave other things as well? That’s how Flying High Engraving was born. “My parents owned an engraving shop while I was growing up,” Angie said. “So it’s kind of come full circle.” They engraved with a hand diamond drag, but now, of course, we’re using laser and it’s been fun to learn. It’s an art, and takes a lot of practice.” What do they engrave? Well, there’s not much they can’t engrave. They do metal, jewelry, guns, plastic, wood, slate, bamboo, leather, and even fabric.
“The only quilt shop with a gun shop or the only gun shop with a quilt shop in America. We’re still trying to decide which one.”
Quilting Essentials & More
Then, another hobby became a business opportunity. “My first job when I was growing up was in a fabric store, and I’ve always loved fabric. When Kelly Ann’s Quilting’s storefront closed, there were people in the area wanting quilting supplies. “A particular need was quilting thread, so that’s where it started, with my little shelf of thread. Then it’s just been growing,” she said, opening the retail shop this past January. She added, “People have had to shop online since COVID-19, but it’s hard with quilting. The colors on the screen don’t always match the fabric well, and you can’t feel the quality. Quilters prefer to shop in person. We do still offer ordering from our website and curbside pickup, but we’re looking forward to everyone coming in again.”
Angie is working on building a community of quilters. Dave says, “Quilters are a tight community, and they’re starting to discover Angie, so it’s gaining traction.” Angie explains, “We work on building that rapport with our customers, so if they ever have a question they’ll come back. I tell them, ‘I’m your teacher for life.’ And they take me up on it. They don’t hesitate to pop in and ask for help with a pattern, and we can help them figure it out. It’s good.”
The staff at Highflyer Arms/Flying High Engraving/Quilting Essentials & More is a huge part of the shops. Angie’s best friend Artie Mock works with her in the quilt shop, and John Denning manages the gun store. Dave has had to rely on his staff for the last two years while he was out being treated for cancer. “I was homebound for 18 months, and just came back in January. Right now, part time is as much as I can do. Just being here is important while I get my strength back. My weekend guys Bill Little, Rick Goodall, and Jason Ashby really stepped up and kept it going while I was out.”
Living just outside Warrenton, Dave and Angie are delighted to live so close to their shop in Old Town. “We’re a mile and a half away,” says Angie, “But not quite walking distance, especially with having to go up the hill on Waterloo Street.” Sharing their home are two cats and three beagles adopted from BREW (Beagle Rescue and Welfare), which the Russells wholeheartedly support. “They’re special dogs, a little different. You really have to know what to expect when you adopt a beagle. BREW is so careful about that,” said Angie.
Dave and Angie invite you to come check out their one-of-a-kind store when you’re in Old Town.