A wish come true: Fisherman opens shop at Lake Frederick

Greg Sanner stands beside a line of John boats on the edge of Lake Frederick that he has available for rental. Sanner has taken over the bait and tackle shop and upgraded the facility with snacks, bait, and boat rentals. Rich Cooley/Daily

LAKE FREDERICK – Fifteen years ago, Gregory Sanner thought he’d own the bait and tackle shop at Lake Frederick. Now, he’s gotten his wish.

Last June, Sanner, 56, said he acquired the shop after the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries refused to extend the previous owner’s lease. He opened the new shop, now called Gregory’s Lakeside Bait and Tackle, on March 25, after spending months setting up the store.

“I thought that one day I’d like to have this shop,” Sanner said. “And then it worked out, which was pretty cool.”

A longtime tournament fisherman, Sanner said he first seriously considered buying the building that house the store last year, when the store wasn’t being operated.

“None of the people here had a place to get drinks, a place to get bait, you know, locally,” Sanner said. “Everybody had to travel to get what they wanted, so I wanted this back open.”

Sanner also sees the shop as something of a retirement job. He has long worked in construction – he currently works for an unnamed government contractor — but health problems have made that work more difficult to do.

“Lot of medical issues,” Sanner said. “You know, arthritis and February 2016, I had a kidney taken out; I had kidney cancer. So kind of slowed down in the construction world.”

Sanner said he hopes that in two years he can grow the business to the point where he can support himself on the shop’s revenue.

“You know, I can do this and I consider myself retired,” Sanner said.

Sanner is excited about the potential for the business in part because of plans the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has for the site. (The department owns the land Gregory’s Lakeside Bait and Tackle sits on, while Sanner owns the building.)

Brad Fink, a state fisheries biologist, said the department plans to build a new fishing pier at Lake Frederick within the next two or three years as well as upgrading the parking by the bait and tackle shop. Fink also said there were plans to build a new concessions building, to replace the one Sanner is  in.

It was that last plan that had Sanner the most excited. The building, Sanner said, will have interior bathrooms and will be larger than his shop.

“I can’t wait,” Sanner said.

Since acquiring the bait shop last year, Sanner said he has made significant changes to the site. He said he spent $50,000 getting the shop ready for business.

“(I) literally threw away 90 percent of the stuff that was in here,” Sanner said. “I didn’t leave any of it for sale. Pretty much everything in here is new.”

Sanner has also brought on staff members to work for him –  both are friends of Sanner’s from the tournament fishing world. Alan Snap was hired to work his boats and Sanner said he also brought in Jeff Wolf, who owned the Lake Frederick bait shop (then called Wolf’s Minnow Bucket), eight years ago.

“Jeff’s sitting home doing nothing, so I asked him if I went after it and got it, would he run it for me and he said he would,” Sanner said.

For Sanner, the new shop means that he gets to spend some time with his friends from tournament fishing as he prepares for retirement. He said friends frequently show up at his shop after work to goof off.

The only catch is that he hasn’t had the time to fish.

“I was telling someone the other day,” Sanner said, “the only fishing rod I’ve hung up so far is the one I put up there on the wall.”

Contact staff writer Max Lee at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or mlee@nvdaily.com