he evolution of Bill Jackson Inc. has led us from a post-World War II military surplus store to a state-of-the-art outdoor adventure outfitter. We cater to the following outdoor sports: Adventure Travel, Archery, Backpacking
Camping, Climbing, Fishing, Guns, Hunting, and much more.
About the Company
Bill Jackson began his business in the back of a garage with a ton of bleach and 500 pounds of rat poison. If that sounds bizarre and a little unbelievable, it is! They say it all began by accident.
During World War II, Mr. Jackson, a native of Atlanta and a builder at heart, was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. He spent a total of five years in the army and maintained that his greatest lesson was how to peel potatoes. One night, at a Big Band party on base, he met the lovely Harriet Rogers and cut in for a dance. Mrs. Jackson would later say that, at that moment, she knew she would marry him … even though he was, in her words, “the worst dancer.”
Mr. Jackson spent more than two years in England with the Eighth Air Force, then returned to Florida, and more important, to Harriet Rogers. Shortly after their marriage in 1946, Mr. Jackson attended an army surplus auction on base. He came home to his newlywed wife with 500 pounds of rat poison and a ton of bleach. Quite suddenly and perhaps by accident, the builder became a business man.
That little garage accumulated army blankets, parachutes, foot lockers, radio parts and more. The Jacksons soon realized that they would need an actual store in which to keep their goods. So in 1951, they purchased an old ramshackle building on 4th Street and 11th Avenue South, and began preparations to make their move.
Those plans hit a brick wall when the city condemned the building, but even this did not stop the Jacksons. They drew up plans, had them approved, and rebuilt the store in an unthinkable 30 days. Bill Jackson and Bud Stark, who worked at the store for 39 years, did much of the labor themselves.
A family of two grew into a family of four, and Darry and Doug Jackson have worked at the store since they could man the registers. They stood on upside-down trash cans when they were children in order to reach the countertops. Darry even remembers his mother putting him and his brother on display in the window with the sleeping bags to amuse the customers. Now, more than 70 years later, with business degrees under their belts, Darry and Doug Jackson manage customer relations, store travels, finances, advertising and business in general.
By 1952, Bill Jackson’s had grown to include fishing tackle, camping gear and even scuba diving equipment. Then Mr. Jackson made a revolutionary decision for the future of his business: He began to teach scuba diving. There were no books available, no programs such as NAUI or PADI, and much of the gear was cobbled together. But Mr. Jackson firmly believed that it was important to teach what he sold.