Shawnee Dispatch

Shawnee community says goodbye to She's A Pistol

Jon Bieker pictured with his wife Becky. Enlarge photo

January 4, 2017

On New Year’s Eve, one of the city’s most beloved stores shut its doors for the last time.

After more than four years in the community, She’s A Pistol LLC closed for business, leaving behind a heartbroken community of devoted customers and supporters.

The reason behind the store’s closure is a startling reminder of reality’s darkest challenges.

Tremendous legal expenses, mounted up from tragic circumstances, forced owner Becky Bieker to make the hardest decision of her life.

In January 2015, four young men attempted to rob She’s A Pistol at gunpoint. During a subsequent shootout, Bieker’s husband, Jon, was shot and killed.

To keep their dream alive, the devastated widow relocated their store from downtown Shawnee to the southeast corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Quivira Road.

But, she was drowning financially.

“Mounting legal fees, the increased labor expenses, things like that,” Bieker told WDAF. “I got behind. And as you get behind, the late fees and penalties pile up and it creates a vicious cycle that just puts you further and further in debt.”

In the end, Bieker felt she had no choice but to shut down the store she and Jon had worked so hard to build up.

She added that it felt like she was losing Jon, her best friend, all over again.

Last week, she posted her decision on the She’s A Pistol Facebook page.

“I, and my team, are eternally grateful for everyone’s supportive words and prayers,” Bieker wrote. “Please know that you each mean the world to us and you will all be missed greatly.”

The store will continue to offer training courses through a different location. A liquidation sale was held late last week.

Bieker’s announcement created a ripple of heartache across Shawnee and the rest of the Kansas City area.

“Becky is a strong woman and we were glad to see her get back on her feet after the tragedy, but none of us really understood the financial struggles she was facing,” said Mike Unterreiner, the owner of Hartman Hardware and president of the Shawnee Downtown Business Association. “It’s a very sad situation.”

He pointed out that She’s A Pistol helped the Shawnee business community thrive, because her store drew customers from all over the Kansas City area and even beyond.

Charles Vogt, senior vice president of Country Club Bank in Shawnee, said he was saddened by the news.

“It’s very tough to be a small business owner and under her circumstances, it was even worse,” said Vogt. “As much as the Shawnee community rallied around her, we knew it would be difficult to continue under the shadow of tragedy. But she persevered and kept her business going as long as she could, which I find very commendable.”

Over in Lenexa, Bieker’s friend Sharon Auck has set up a GoFundMe page to help with legal expenses and to keep the She’s A Pistol training classes going.

As of the Dispatch’s print deadline, the amount raised was $20,700.

“She’s A Pistol was more than gun store, it was about empowering yourself and feeling protected,” Auck said. “Becky wants to spread knowledge so no woman ever has to feel unsafe.

It’s a sentiment Bieker herself echoed to the Dispatch back in 2013.

After all, she and Jon founded the female-friendly firearms shop in the hopes of helping everyone, man or woman, feel safe and comfortable.

Most of her customers were women seeking self-defense for the first time.

“Something in their life has triggered a desire to protect themselves,” Bieker told the Dispatch in 2013. “The come in a little hesitant, feeling overwhelmed. Maybe they’ve had a break-up, they’re having ongoing problems with an ex. They’re afraid to go home in the dark, afraid to walk to their car from work.”

Bieker also believed that gun ownership wasn’t for everyone, sometimes steering people towards non-lethal options like pepper-spray or Tasers.

The couple’s friendliness and solid advice quickly made them popular figures in Shawnee.

It also brought back customers over and over again.

Long-time customer John Crume, a retired Overland Park police officer, said She’s A Pistol was a popular store among many Johnson County law enforcement officers.

He appreciated the store’s high-end products and reasonable prices.

But the most impressive aspect of the store was the training classes, he said.

“The classes were incredibly in-depth, which as a police officer, I really appreciated,” Crume said. “There are way too many people out there who aren’t trained very well. So, I’m glad to hear she’s keeping the training going because that’s good for the community.”

Another longtime customer, John Sullivan, agreed.

A couple years ago, he took a concealed carry training session from Jon and he was impressed.

“Jon took the time to explain everything,” said Sullivan, who is the Public Works Director for the city of Westwood. “There were a lot of women in my class and he went the extra mile to help them understand the laws and feel comfortable about using a gun. I mean, he really went above and beyond.”

He also appreciated their up-to-date inventory and detailed website.

“They had a genuine interest in teaching folks how to protect themselves and handle themselves in dangerous situations,” Sullivan said. “She’s A Pistol will definitely be missed. It was a resource for the community.”

It’s a sentiment echoed throughout the entire community.

“I know God works in different ways and my parents always used to tell me that when one door closes, another one opens,” said Vogt. “I hope she sees a new opportunity down the road once time passes. I hope she continues to follow her dreams. I want Becky to know that if she’s ever ready to come back, she can reach out to us and we will be there for anything she needs. We’re going to miss her.”

Bieker has publicly stated that she is unsure what the future has in store for her.

But in a few months, she’s going to be busy.

All four trials for the men who attempted to rob her store begin this spring.

-Mike Frizzell of Operation 100 News contributed to this report.

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