By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Curtis Grace recently retired from more than 30 years with Two Rivers Coop, 18 of which he spent managing the Newkirk facility. For many, retirement is a final end to the work life, a chance to travel the country or spend time with family. Not for Grace, however, as he left one career for another, starting a new venture at Black Jack Bait & Tackle, as he moves into a new stage in life.
Grace is sitting at a picnic table outside the store, enjoying the cool afternoon breeze Sept. 13. The shop has not only new management, but also a new name, but much remains the same.
“The bait store’s been here a long time. The original bait shop was called Black Jack’s, now it’s called Grit & Grace Outdoors,” he said. “We are going to hopefully offer not only fishing tackle, but outdoors equipment, as well.”
Two Rivers Coop fit Grace naturally, as he has long had an avid interest in agriculture. The bait shop is also a good fit for him, as he was instilled with a love for the outdoors at a young age. It isn’t just Grace who is active in the outdoors in his family. His son, Spencer, is the Kay County game warden for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and his other son, Jason, co-owner of Stage Coach Inn Barbecue, is in partnership with Grace in the new store.
Indeed there is very little Grace hasn’t hunted, which includes deer, pheasant, dove, quail, rabbit, squirrels, ducks and geese. He likewise has fished multiple species, including all manner of catfish, along with striper, crappie, sand bass and trout. These have been in numerous area lakes, including Kaw, Ponca and Sooner, to name only a few.
It isn’t just in Oklahoma, either, where he has taken to the woods.
“I’ve hunted elk in the Rocky Mountains, and hunted caribou in Alaska,” he said. “I fished in Alaska when I was there, for trout, and in the Rocky Mountains, too, in the summertime.”
Grace took over the bait shop Sept., 5, offering previous Beverly Smith her own type of retirement. While the store was previously focused on fishing bait and tackle, Grace plans to expand to a much broader outdoor offering, including hunting supplies, as well as general outdoors equipment, including for camping. He does not currently have a license to sell firearms, but he will provide ammunition for hunting, as well as hunting and fishing licenses and seed needed for food plots.
The storage shed adjacent to the bait shop are also available to the public.
“If they are from out of town, and they want to put their fishing pols in storage, we have that service, too,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have enough to offer to bring people to the great town of Newkirk, as well.”
Many other changes are planned in an upgrade to the facility such as new insulation to make it easier to operate through the year, an office and new bathroom. There will also be an increase in the variety of fishing supplies, including live bait like gold fish, perch, minnows and earth worms.
It is also hoped they will have details of hunting and fishing reports from the region, including Kaw Lake and the Kaw Wildlife Management area.
Grace spent a long career in agriculture and area grain elevators, so why would he not slow down after retiring? Because it’s about the outdoors, and if he can instill that love in other people, especially children, he feels like he has played his part.
“If I can touch people to go out fishing and hunting, and if they take a child hunting or fishing, I consider that a success, for me and the child,” he said. “I want them to be out there, climbing a tree, catching a fish, doing what I did when I was a little kid. To me, that is what this is all about.”