Wallace received a standing ovation as he accepted the award at the Smyrna Area Council of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce breakfast in the Smyrna Community Center.
City Councilman Ron Fennel, who handed him the award, said Wallace’s determination defined him and his business.
“For those of us who understand the Constitution, the First Amendment and how important it is, we also recognize how important the Second Amendment is,” Fennel said. “It’s an American success story from an individual who is a true unique individual carved out of our Founding Fathers’ path. Somebody who says, ‘I’m going to do it my way.’ … If you know the business, you know the guy.”
BB&T banker Robert Chase of west Cobb, who nominated Wallace for the award, noted the investments Wallace made in his business.
“He had two businesses that were both at the intersection of South Cobb Drive and Windy Hill. It’s a very challenging area, and Jay went in late 2009, he took enormous risk and bought the shopping center that he’s at now, at 2500 South Cobb Drive. It was a run-down building that had been vacant for three or four years,” Chase said. “He made a significant investment when a lot of businesses where laying off people and closing, went from a 12,000-square-foot shop to 60,000 and about tripled his employee base by doing that, all in a time when nobody else was really willing to take any risk. That took a lot of courage from him and his family.”
Last fall, Wallace moved Adventure Outdoors, a sporting goods store and firearms retailer, into the vacant Bruno’s Grocery building at 2500 South Cobb Drive near Windy Hill, spending $2.5 million to add a 17-lane shooting range and a meeting hall capable of seating 500 people. He intends to open a café there in January.
Wallace said the most popular gun he sells is the Glock.
“It’s what over 70 percent of the police carry, so civilians tend to want to shoot what the police carry,” he said.
He also owns Smyrna Police Distributors, which sells police and security equipment in another store on Windy Hill Road.
Last month, Wallace tangled with state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who sent a complaint to the Georgia Secretary of State, objecting to the gun raffle Wallace was promoting on area billboards. The billboards encouraged voters to bring in their “I’m a Georgia voter” sticker handed out at the polls and be entered into a gun raffle. In his letter to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Fort insisted it was illegal to offer money or gifts in exchange for voting.
But Wallace had already cleared it with the Secretary of State’s office, assuring them that anyone was eligible to participate in the raffle, not just voters.
Wallace said he was simply doing it to encourage people to become involved in the political process.
In 2006, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued Wallace, seven other gun shops in Georgia and several others around the country, alleging they had created a public nuisance with illegal sales of firearms that ended up on the streets of New York.
Wallace said the case was resolved in his favor last year when the court found that Adventure Outdoors is not subject to personal jurisdiction in New York based on the New York long-arm statute and constitutional due process principles.
“It’s been a long road,” Wallace told the audience. “I’ve been in Smyrna in business for 36 years now. A few of the old-timers will remember when we started up in Belmont Hills and then we opened another business in Jonquil Plaza, and so the years go by, and both the shopping centers are gone that we started with, and in many ways it seems like it was just yesterday.
“But one of the things I can truly say is we’ve enjoyed doing business in Smyrna. It’s home for us, and we’ve done everything that we can to stay here. We’ve had people who have tried to pull us away to go to other places, but Smyrna is home. Thank you very much for this award. I am truly humbled. Thank you to my wife and family. Just thank you very much.”
Wallace, 56, and his wife, Cecilia, have three sons and live in Paulding County.
Among those in attendance was Cobb Chamber of Commerce chairman Tony Britton.
“I’m just thrilled to death to see what’s happened here in Smyrna,” Britton said. “They’ve continued to remain committed to Smyrna. As he pointed out, I think two of their first locations are closed, and they have actually gone into one of the larger locations now and expanded that, revitalizing that area and continuing to bring good to Smyrna, so I am very excited.”
Also in attendance was Smyrna Councilman Wade Lnenicka.
“Jay is a longtime and loyal Smyrna businessman who, as he said, has chosen to keep his business here in Smyrna, and that is much appreciated,” Lnenicka said. “He’s taken a small business and over the years built it into a very large retailer with a national reputation. It’s great to have people like that here in Smyrna.”