In the spirit of community, Little Me Childcare in Ramsey is cooperating with Total Defense, a gun store and self-defense training center, on the latter’s plans to install an indoor shooting range in the vacant building next to the child-care center.
“We’re very ecstatic” about the shooting-range venture, said Kurt Ochs, who has run Total Defense with Dan Wellman since 2011. The two have a combined 25 years of experience and the range is just the “next generation of the business,” Ochs said.
The Ramsey City Council approved the Total Defense plans during a meeting last month. Before the vote, Little Me’s owner, Amber Brick, and others expressed worries about the shooting range’s proximity to the child-care center. Safety and noise were the major issues.
Total Defense has since met with Brick. To allay worries, the Total Defense offered to come to the day-care to talk with parents. Brick said Total Defense is also considering opening its doors to parents, thinking that might help put their minds at ease.
Brick said she and Total Defense also have discussed some mutually beneficial ideas, such as partnering to offer short-term care services on weekends and evenings for children while parents practice their sport next door.
“We’re more on the same page,” Brick said. “We’re going to make sure both businesses are successful.”
Brick said she’s still concerned about losing some of her clients but is also optimistic that parents will come around in time.
Total Defense said that the empty building on 167th Avenue NW. is the best place for the range. Ochs said a proper shooting range requires a space at least 100 feet deep. The 18,300-square-foot shell of a building offers that and more. The concrete exterior walls and absence of interior walls to demolish are added advantages, Ochs said.
Tim Gladhill, Ramsey’s development service manager, said he hasn’t heard of community complaints since the council approved Total Defense’s plans on Feb. 11.
Building a shooting range next to a child-care center may seem unusual, but it is not unprecedented. In 2013, Johns Creek Indoor Gun Range opened in Suwanee, Ga., across the street from a day-care and a church.
Some parents protested during construction, saying they’d pull their kids out of the day-care’s preschool. However, Kellie Bishop, director of the Johns Creek Academy day-care, said, “We haven’t lost any [families] that we know of because of the shooting range. But we never know how many didn’t come in the door because of it.”
The gun range’s general manager, Arlene Mison, said, “We’ve been open since the end of August last year, and there’s been no negative feedback from the church or the school.”
Back in Ramsey, Total Defense expects to begin work on the range in mid-March and is aiming for a July opening, Ochs said.
Sarah Barchus is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.