NRA Family InSights: Your new show, "The Gunfather Presented by Brownells," premiering Wednesday, October 1st at 8 p.m. ET on Outdoor Channel, seems to be kind of a "fish out of water" story, about a New York City family transplanted to Hamilton, Mont., to open a gun shop. Can you tell us how this came to be?
Louie Tuminaro: Well, I'd sold our family businesses-we had a couple in the City-and since I wasn't doing much, I thought I'd turn myself towards pursuing a lifelong hobby. I'd always had guns as a hobby, so I thought, "Why not turn it into a living?" Montana's more gun-friendly than New York, so I packed up my family and moved out there to open The Custom Shop, the best gun shop in the West.
NRA Family InSights: What's been the biggest adjustment for you, going from NYC to Hamilton?
Louie Tuminaro: Well, a big adjustment was taking an Italian out of New York City-that was pretty huge. The pace here is probably the hardest thing to get used to; everybody is just kind of moving at their own pace...there's no rush. Whereas, in the City, everybody wants everything immediately. I've had to become more patient living in Montana these last few years. It's kind of funny; living here has slowed me down a little. Every time I go back to New York and I'm at a light, I get honked at.
NRA Family InSights: Was it tough to convince your family to come along with you out West?
Louie Tuminaro: Well, you know, trying to talk my wife into coming was tough. My kids were at that age at the time when they're going to do whatever their parents are going to do. I don't think it really hit them until we got here. The surprise was my own reaction. The second I got here and opened the door to the home we lived in, and I said, "Turn around, we're all going back right now."
The moving company, it was a man and wife, and she pulled me aside and said, "I heard you talking. You're not even going to give your dream a chance? Give it a year, you've got to try it. If after a year you still want to go, I'll come back and pick up all your stuff."
So, actually it was Theresa, my wife, who was the strongest. But we stuck together as a family, and we pulled through and we did it. And now my son, who's 13 now, is basically a Montanan. He might have Italian parents, but he doesn't talk the part.
NRA Family InSights: Speaking of family, what role do your wife Theresa and father "Pops" play in your plan for The Custom Shop, LLC...and on the show?
Louie Tuminaro: Well, when we decided to name the show "The Gunfather," it was because this is really a story about a family. Our business is all about family, family, family. It's about my father, me being a father, our Italian heritage...the name touches on our whole story. My wife Theresa, whom we call "T-Bone," handles all the phones, the customers, the shipping...she's extremely important in our everyday operations in our company. When my kids aren't in school, they're working here. And my father Joe (whom we call "Pops"), the thorn in my side that he is, he's awesome. He's the one who loved Montana from day one; he thinks it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. He does all of our metalwork and polishing, and he's just great with people. Customers come in and I have to pull him away because he'll talk to them for an hour and not get any work done...that is, when he's not nudging me all day.
NRA Family InSights: Having grown up in New York City, how did you become interested in dealing in and restoring guns?
Louie Tuminaro: I grew up with my father. Working on guns was always a hobby of his. There he'd be in the kitchen, working on them on the table, or in the garage with his loading presses, cleaning his guns, taking them apart...and all the time, me watching. I was just so intrigued; I just loved it. My father was shooting trap and skeet every weekend, going hunting constantly in upstate New York. I never wanted him to leave the house without me.
I'm still an active hunter, actually. I'm going hunting next month. That's one of the wonderful things about Montana, when you look out your back window and you've got a 200-inch muley in your back yard, most people have never seen animals this big. It's amazing.
NRA Family InSights:Your store, The Custom Shop, focuses on antique and collectible firearms. What's the rarest or most unique firearm you've acquired in your journey that we might see turn up on the show?
Louie Tuminaro: We acquire a tremendous number of rare firearms; it's amazing what we see. And they're all easier to sell than they are to find, so it's finding these treasures that really drives me. We had a very rare gun come in on our show; it's a $25,000 rifle-a Browning Belgium Olympian. We acquired it for a customer, but this beautiful fully engraved gun came in broken. So you'll see on us making this gun look exactly like it did when it left the factory 50 years ago; you'll see our skills and what we did.
NRA Family InSights:One last question, because we've just got to know: Who drives a harder bargain, Montanans or New Yorkers?
Louie Tuminaro: I've gotta tell you, with all due respect to the Montanans, whom I think are very smart, New Yorkers are raised in such a fast-paced environment and it makes them drive a harder bargain. Montanans, on the other hand, do everything in their own time. They're in no rush to sell whatever they have. But being part of the community here in Montana is so important to us. We do a lot of charity work, which you'll see in our episodes. We're growing our community and giving back to our community any way we can.