Stone Nickerson brings an updated feel to a Clark County staple for anglers

When it comes to fishing, Stone Nickerson is hooked.

It's the adrenaline rush, he says, after quoting an expression in the fishing community: The tug is the drug.

“You don't know what's on the other end of that line,” he says.

Now fishing is not only Nickerson's hobby, but also makes up part of his livelihood. The 24-year-old opened Leen's General Store last week at 2447 Mechanicsburg Road. The store and its inventory will continue to change weekly during this soft opening, he says, and he hopes to hold a grand reopening of Leen's in the summer.

Regulars to the convenience store formerly known as Leen's Carry-Out and Bait will see some familiar staples, but the store's inventory is expanding under Nickerson. Customers can expect a wider selection of bait and tackle, new fishing gear and different brands, including local and Ohio-made vendors. Leen's will also carry items specific for niche fishing communities, such as catfishing.

Lottery, tobacco and alcohol products will remain, while the store also will offer snacks, camping supplies and advice.

“We like to keep our anglers up to date about where the fish are biting and what's going on,” Nickerson says.

Leen's location near Buck Creek State Park and  C.J. Brown Reservoir makes it an ideal stop-in for the casual fisherman, and the store serves them with items like affordable and accessible rod-and-reel combination fishing poles.

“If you forgot something while you're at the reservoir, come see us, and we've probably got it,” Nickerson says.

But Clark County has no shortage of fishing locations. In fact, Nickerson says that Mad River is the only naturally cold-water stream in Ohio, meaning it is the only stream that will support trout fishing naturally.

Nickerson calls himself a “die-hard trout angler” and has chased them as far away as Wyoming and Colorado. It is a popular species to fish in Clark County in the winter, while walleye, crappie, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass attract fishermen to the area at other times of the year.

Clark County is home to about 15,000 to 20,000 fishing license-holders, he says. Leen's caters not only to the experienced angler, but the newbie as well.

“We'd love to walk them through it and get them on the water,” he says.

Nickerson, a Northwestern High School graduate, also has dreams of opening a specialty store dedicated to the serious fisherman. Last year he competed in Springfield Hustles – the competition for local entrepreneurs that is based on the popular television show “Shark Tank” – and his idea for Everyday Angler was one of the five finalists.

He now hopes to launch Everyday Angler as an online store for medium- to high-end fishing products, such as custom, hand-built fishing rods. He also plans for Everyday Angler to offer services and classes, while Leen's would provide the storage for the online inventory.

“Everyday Angler is definitely going to happen, it's just a matter of when,” says Nickerson, who lives in Springfield with his wife, Gracyn.

Although the idea for Everyday Angler didn't win Springfield Hustles, the experience prepared Nickerson to acquire Leen's, he says. He already had a business plan, and he came to know what it takes to own a business.

Before he purchased Leen's, Nickerson says he was on the water once or twice each week. When he and the store ease into a normal business schedule, he anticipates being on the water again regularly.

“If I have the chance, I'm out,” he says.

Nickerson thinks it is the pursuit of fishing knowledge that keeps him hooked. There is always the next thing – another species, why a fish bites the way it does – to learn.

The former Leen's Carry-Out and Bait was a staple for 23 years, Nickerson says. That won't change with Leen's General Store.

“I think it is an important place for the fishing and outdoor community, and I plan to keep it that way,” he says.

Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

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