Sheila and Dennis Kirchoff, owners of Darien Sporting Goods, a trapshooting facility in Darien that was opened in 1989 by Sheila’s parents, David and Mary Ennis, closed the business Oct. 31. The Kirchoffs held a final shoot ceremony their final day that included a lunch for guests. The new owners plan to turn the property into a wedding venue. (Mike Hoey photo)

Darien Sporting Goods trapshooting facility closed Oct. 31

By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

After 32 years in business, Darien Sporting Goods, a trapshooting facility just outside the Village of Darien, closed on Oct. 31. An offer to purchase the business and turn it into a wedding facility has been accepted by owners Sheila and Dennis Kirchoff.

“It is the end of an era. There are a lot of sad people around here,” Dennis Kirchoff said.

David and Mary Ennis opened Darien Sporting Goods in 1989 and the facility has thrown over 15 million targets over the years. It surpassed one million targets a year in 2001 and 2002, and has hosted numerous trapshooting events and leagues over the years.

A Guinness Book of World Records record was even set at the facility in 2001 as five men broke the record for most targets shot in one day as a team. They shot for 22 1/2 hours to set the new mark that lasted less than a year before a group in Texas set their own record.

David Ennis was an avid shooter himself, making the All-State team several years. He was the team’s captain in 1991 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Trapshooter’s Hall of Fame in 2002. Dennis said David routinely shot 500 targets in a row without missing, which is quite the accomplishment.

Shelia Kirchoff, David and Mary’s daughter, began helping run the business 15 years ago and took over more and more of the operation in recent years as her father battled Parkinson’s Disease followed by colon cancer. He died two years ago.

Dennis has been helping run the business since the two of them got married eight years ago. Dennis is an avid shooter as well and said he is good but never took the next step to become elite like David had done.

Sheila said she and Dennis have been looking to sell the business for about three years because it’s just too much for the two of them to run. She said family members have helped out when they could – and when they were younger – but they have their own lives now. Sheila said as her own kids got older she lost the connection to the teenaged crowd that often volunteered their time to help out at the club.

“It is a lot of work to run it ourselves,” she said.

Sheila said they had an offer to purchase three years ago that fell through but the offer currently on the table seems more solid.

“They have already invested a lot of money,” Dennis said.

The new owners – who the Kirchoff’s did not name because the sale is not final yet – plan to turn the facility onto a wedding venue, they said.

“David wanted it to always be a gun club, but the days of it being a gun club are over,” Dennis said. “A year from now it will look totally different.”

Trapshooting, Dennis explained, can be an individual or team sport. Shooters fire 25 rounds of shotgun shells at clay targets that are launched up to 15 feet in the air. Shooters’ averages are kept and reported to the state and those averages follow shooters to competitions in other places to ensure they shoot against people of similar skill.

Darien Sporting Goods, which also sells many items related to trapshooting, hosted Thursday night leagues in the summer with 21 teams and in the fall with 16 teams who competed for trophies that people came from an hour or more away to compete for. In the past, the club has hosted as many as 35 league teams. During its hey-day, the club was ranked as the No. 1 trapshooting facility in the state based on the number of targets shot.

Sheila said trap shooting has become more rare in recent years, though there are still clubs in Delavan, Janesville and Beloit. Dennis pointed out that those clubs are all membership-based while their club was open to the public.

Darien Sporting was open for the last time on Oct. 31. The club provided open shooting as it usually does but at noon, food was provided and there was a special ceremony – anyone present was given the final opportunity to fire at the last four targets launched at the club. The American flag that had been draped over David’s coffin when he was buried was displayed as well. After the shoot, Sheila said people hung around to drink, talk and cry a bit.

Sheila said her future plans are up in the air. Early retirement may be a possibility and Dennis is already retired after working for Alliant Energy for 40 years.

Sunday brought a lot of conflicting emotions, the couple said.

“It is a lot of work and we just don’t have that kind of energy anymore,” Dennis said. “It is time to move on.”.

“We will miss everybody,” Sheila said.

Sheila thanked all of the patrons they have had over the years for being a part of their lives. She also thanked the numerous helpers – many of them family members – they have had over the years.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Sheila said.

 

 
 

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