By Pete M. Anderson
Fishing tackle manufacturer Normark Corp., which is based in the angler’s paradise of Minnesota, could have picked any location to entertain buyers from Bass Pro Shops. But the maker of Rapala lures and other gear chose outdoor thrills at King Fisher Society in rural Scotland County.
Groups — including those from Plano, Texas-based Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. and Horsham, Pa.-based Bimbo Bakeries USA, the country’s largest bread-maker — reserve King Fisher for board meetings, team building and deal making. Afterward, instead of the typical post-meeting round of golf, visitors catch and release trophy bass and bluegills on Richmond Mill Lake and hunt quail on 2,000 acres of longleaf pine and broom-straw fields. “More than 80% of our guests have never done any of these [activities],” says Jim Morgan, president and CEO of Laurel Hill-based King Fisher Society LLC.
Eight-hour fishing trips at King Fisher cost $600 per person; five-hour hunting trips, which include a round of sporting clays, are $500. Guides, gear and lunch are provided. Dinners catered by local chefs and lodging at Magnolia Estate, Morgan’s childhood home, are available at extra cost. Privacy is always included. That has been especially appealing to some guests — NASCAR drivers, major league baseball players, a Super Bowl-winning coach and politicians. “We’re exclusive,” Morgan says. “When a group is here, they’re not seeing the public. They act differently when they know a microphone or camera won’t be put in their face.”
Morgan, 63, grew up on King Fisher’s property, which his family has owned since the 19th century. Those roots include Morgan-Jones, a textile manufacturer whose six mills once employed 2,000. The family eventually sold the mills, the last in 1974, and invested the proceeds in real estate. Morgan, a former Presbyterian minister, joined the family business in 1993.
King Fisher opened in 2006. “We felt there was a space for high-end fishing for corporate-relationship building,” Morgan says. But an angling-only business model wouldn’t swim. Hunting was added, along with other activities, to broaden appeal and offer an alternative when winter temperatures make boating uncomfortable.
Overnight groups at King Fisher number four to six people, Morgan says. It hosts one-day events, such as weddings, for larger groups — 20 to 200 people. Some are part of a package that Pinehurst Resort uses to attract meetings and conventions: Attendees who don’t care to golf travel the 30 minutes to Laurel Hill for fishing, sporting clays, kayaking, falconry and archery.
Morgan wouldn’t share sales figures for the family-owned business, but he says King Fisher is growing, pointing to plans for a 5,000-square-foot event hall. It will seat up to 250 dinner guests and be outfitted with the latest audio-visual equipment when complete in the spring.