CLEARFIELD – When Robert and Emily Grimminger opened a small military surplus store in Clearfield in 1948, they had no way of knowing their family business would be one of the main staples of Clearfield.
Although Robert Grimminger Sr. passed away Feb. 6, 2015, his son has kept Bob’s Army & Navy going. The store is now celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Before opening the store that would become his legacy, Grimminger joined the U.S. Army in February of 1943, to do his part for his country during World War II.
He was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division and was soon given the opportunity to volunteer for parachutist jump school.
In May of 1944, Grimminger was sent to Camp Stoneman in California for embarkation to their overseas deployment.
His division went through extensive training in the Owen Stanly Mountains of New Guinea, before their commitment to combat on Leyte Island.
On the morning of Feb. 7, 1945, Grimminger’s company was part of an attack on Nichols Air Field. Grimminger and his squad were attacking an enemy “pillbox” bunker and came under heavy fire.
Grimminger was hit by a burst of machine gun fire and was treated for his injuries in a military field hospital.
Grimminger then stayed in a convalescent hospital on Leyte Island for 8-10 weeks. He was released to rejoin his unit but was later transferred to Company G of the 188th parachute infantry regiment.
His new unit was training for an invasion of Kyushu, when they received word Aug. 6, 1945, that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
Three days later, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and Japan wanted to surrender. Grimminger was discharged Jan. 6, 1946.
He had earned the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, the Distinguished Unit Badge, the Philippines Liberation Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars and one Bronze Arrowhead, a Presidential Unit Citation, a Ruptured Duck Lapel Pin, the World War II Victory Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Expert Infantry Badge and the Qualified Parachutist Badge.
Upon returning to Pennsylvania, Grimminger had worked for American Viscos Corp., but soon discovered he could make a good living by selling surplus military files.
He met his wife Emily in 1947 and they were married April 18, 1948. Grimminger decided that he wanted to quit his job and get into selling military surplus full-time.
Grimminger searched the surrounding towns for a location where he would have no competition and established his business in Clearfield in June of 1948.
Grimminger transferred his reserve status to the 776th Armored Field Artillery Battalion in Clearfield, until its deactivation in 1957-58.
The battalion was reactivated into the 4th of the 92nd Field Artillery Battalion with headquarters in Clearfield and three firing batteries in Punxsutawney, DuBois and St. Marys. He remained in the reserves until 1982, having been promoted to the rank of colonel.
While still serving in the military, Grimminger established Bob’s Army & Navy. His son Robert said the business began in a small shop in the East End area of Clearfield. Shortly after, the store was moved to North Third Street in Clearfield, where it remained until 1976.
The store was relocated to its present location at 229 E. Market St., in Clearfield.
Grimminger said he became involved in his father’s business in the late 1980’s. He said he worked his way up to manager of the store and then became president.
Grimminger said as the demand for military surplus became less over the years, the store began moving into shooting sports and hunting.
He said when the store first got into selling firearms, the demand was mostly for shotguns and rifles. He said today’s market is going more towards handguns.
“Right now, Smith and Wesson is our number one vendor,” Grimminger said. “But we carry a lot of different brands.”
Grimminger said the store continues to carry military surplus items, but they also carry a large volume of firearms, firearm accessories, camping and hunting supplies, clothing, footwear and archery supplies.
“We carry a lot more than people realize,” Grimminger said. “We have a lot of new products available; we have a lot of new models for both firearms and archery. It’s a place that any outdoorsman can appreciate.”
Grimminger said the local economy has made operations difficult in recent years, but things have been turning around and he has seen more customers.
“We’re still a family-run business,” Grimminger said. “My sister’s the vice president and my mother still comes in to help. We have a great staff that’s very talented and very knowledgeable.
“If they don’t know the answer to your question, they’ll find out for you. We strongly believe in the second amendment and as long as the legal age to purchase a gun is 18, we will continue to sell to them, unlike some of the other big chain stores.”
While Bob’s Army & Navy has no official celebration planned, the store is holding its “Cabin Fever Sale,” from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Grimminger said all sale prices will have a “70” in the number.