An Erie County hunting and fishing expert retires after 43 years of helping others at his sporting goods store and convenience store.
Dan Seaman, 75, owner of Elk Creek Sports Store, is selling his Lake City business to three relatives.
His fiancée Becky Kindle, son Chris Seaman and Kindle’s daughter Leah Watkins are set to become the new owners of this eastern Erie County staple.
While growing the business over the years, Dan Seaman has been there to offer advice to those who fish for rainbow trout as well as advice to those who go hunting.
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Seaman bought the business when it was just a small bait and tackle shop. Today there are gas pumps, food and sports supplies. It has become a community hub as a place to buy dog licenses, take care of business at the Lake City Village Post Office, and have breakfast with community members talking about the news of the day. The expansions were added because he wanted the store to continue to be more useful to the community.
One of the latest additions is a donation corner in the store. People in the community can leave books or sporting goods such as baseballs, gloves, helmets and shin guards for those who need them. People can take items as needed and return them for someone else to use for free.
“People have been coming for 40 years who know me,” he said of serving multiple generations of the same family.
Elk Creek is one of Erie County’s premier rainbow trout fishing destinations. With his store located a short drive from the Lake Erie tributary, Dan Seaman is the go-to person to talk about changing stream conditions and what the fish are biting every day.
He has answered anglers’ questions and given thousands of tips over the years. For example, on March 25, he said that in cold weather rainbow trout were sluggish and anglers had success with eggs and waxworms. When the temperature rises and the fish are a little more aggressive, the big trout hit the spinners and spinners.
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To help others understand fishing, he wrote an e-book and video in 2009 called “Steelhead AZ” which was available online. It also included fish and game recipes.
Karl Weixlmann, a Steelhead fly fishing guide for 25 years and past president, vice president and permanent board member of the Pennsylvania Steelhead Association, praised Seaman’s leadership over the years.
“Dan Seaman’s Elk Creek Sporting Goods Store has been the meeting place for area sportsmen and visitors for decades, whether you’re a steel enthusiast or a deer hunting enthusiast,” Weixlmann said. “I sometimes wish I was that proverbial fly on the wall, able to relate the many stories told and shared, the evolution of sport fishing in the area, and the many tips and tricks given.
“Throughout these decades, Dan has also been a strong supporter of area sports groups and state agencies that continue to make and grow Erie as the fishing capital of Pennsylvania.”
It’s a business that has catered to what Seaman loves in life, including living in a small town.
He grew up in Johnstown, New York, and served in the United States Army from 1967 to 1969 during the Vietnam War. He then traveled the world for 14 years as a deep-sea commercial diver and underwater welder. He said it was dangerous work and he was looking for something else to do to raise his family.
“I always wanted to work for myself,” Seaman said of trying to figure out his career from an early age and always loving fishing.
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He intended to keep the business locally owned where customers will experience personal service and develop friendships with each other and staff.
“People are going to call just to see what’s going on,” he said of creek conditions and other things going on in the area.
He feels confident entrusting the operation to his family members. Kindle has been working there for 18 years, Chris Seaman has spent most of his life there, and Watkins has worked there from time to time as well.
“It’s like a second home for all of us,” said Leah Watkins.
Becky Kindle looks forward to continuing operations.
“It’s just the vibe of my hometown store where everyone knows everyone and I’m excited to work with (Chris and Leah),” she said, noting that the building serves as a port attachment to the community. “If something tragic happens, if something good happens, that’s where they all come together to tell us and talk.
Chris Seaman, 49, has been in the store for much of his life and is looking forward to working for himself. He said his father was quite a role model for him.
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“There’s probably nobody in this town that guy hasn’t helped,” Chris Seaman said.
He noted that his father has helped people who have had a hard time with fishing lures or had a serious incident, such as having things removed from their vehicle while camping in the area.
“He’s the legitimate Superman,” Watkins said.
When asked what it meant to hand over his store to loved ones, Dan Seaman replied with a smile, “It means I don’t have to anymore.”
He’s glad it’s being handed over to people who can keep local ownership and provide the customer service people have come to expect.
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When he retires, he plans to hunt and fish a little more often and may even look for a part-time job to keep busy.
“I loved those 43 years,” he said. “I was happy to do it and happy to have had it. I have high hopes for this new group coming.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.