BROOKSVILLE – It wasn’t until PJ’s Army-Navy went out of business that the MacKenzie’s pulled the trigger on their dream.
Spence MacKenzie shopped at P.J.’s since he was a boy. He was uncomfortable competing against someone he had known and respected his whole life.
He and his wife, Sheri, had been selling old U.S. Army jeeps for years, so they were already making a living in the military supply business.
Once the area’s lone Army-Navy supply store closed down 18 months ago, the couple jumped at the chance and opened Tactical Supply.
“We’re trying to make it the best surplus store we can,” he said. “We want it to be the best in Florida.”
The store opened at the corner of State Road 50 and Smith Street two weeks ago and already has been visited by hundreds of curious customers.
It will take another two months before the entire building is stocked, Sheri MacKenzie said.
There are knives, patches, rain gear, camping equipment, pouches, battle-dress uniforms and coolers.
There are plenty of supplies for collectors, military personnel, police officers, firefighters, campers and those looking to stock up in preparation for hurricane season.
Spence MacKenzie guessed 80 percent of his customers either served in the military or law enforcement. Most of the rest have some sort of ties to either.
His fascination with military equipment comes from his involvement in the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, of which he has been a member since he was a kid.
That was what planted the idea in his head that he wanted to be in the business of restoring and selling old military equipment. It fascinates him today as much as it did then.
The lawn of his store is stocked with several old Army vehicles and field artillery weapons.
The owners get their supplies from shows, swap meets, flea markets and various vendors. A trailer comes to the business once per week to drop off items. They spend Sundays and Mondays taking inventory and stocking the store.
Sometimes, local residents come in and donate their own items.
An old sniper suit hangs in his store. It was given to MacKenzie from a local Army recruiter. There are blood spots still visible on the sleeves.
Next to the sniper suit hangs a pair of black, silk pajamas.
Goose bumps were visible on MacKenzie’s skin when he talked about the story of those pajamas.
A former soldier who served in Vietnam was alone and stranded along the Cambodian border. A sympathetic native loaned him the pajamas and a conical hat, which helped him blend with the villagers and hide him from the Viet Cong, MacKenzie said.
The disguise worked. He was rescued weeks later.
The man loaned MacKenzie the pajamas, which are not for sale, he said. It makes for good storytelling whenever a customer comes in and asks about them.
MacKenzie is a native of Hernando County. He and his wife, who grew up in Orlando, have been married for nearly 14 years and have two sons. They live in the historical district of Brooksville.
“We wanted to be nowhere else other than Brooksville,” said Sheri MacKenzie.
Biz at a glance:
Name of biz – Tactical Supply
Owners – Spence and Sheri MacKenzie
What it is – Army-Navy supply store
Where it is – 490 Smith Street in Brooksville
Hours of operation – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Get in touch – 352-799-0300
On the Web – www.fltacticalsupply.com
Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or [email protected]