Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A partial rendering of the Jim's Gun Room Story.

The Zhenya art exhibition, described previously, will be held on Saturday, December 8, inside the building located at 234 E. Pearl Street.

Now, for the rest of the story.

Last week I was discussing event preparations with Brian Harper, the exhibition’s overseer in his capacity as faculty advisor for the Indiana University Southeast art students involved with staging the show.

I mentioned to Brian that most of us still refer to the exhibition's location as Jim’s Gun Room. Because he’s not a native, this meant nothing to him, and it occurs to me the actual business has been gone for so long that more youthful readers might not know the story, either.

What’s more, since regaling Brian with this tale, it suddenly occurred to me that I was quite mistaken as to a major detail, corrected here in the retelling.


Jim’s Gun Room opened for business some time around 1984. The incorporation information for Circle L Arms, Inc., long since dissolved, still is posted on-line.

The owner of Jim’s Gun Room was James P. “Jim” Looney, a native of Arkansas who was born in 1941. His wife was Rebecca Sue "Becky" Griffin Looney, a Hoosier (born in 1947). They were married in 1976.

As was the case with so many New Albanians of a certain age, my connection with Jim came through his patronage of Scoreboard Liquors, where I worked at various times throughout the 1980s. His wife was an attorney, and although I dimly recall meeting Becky, Jim's the one I remember. He was bearded, garrulous, sometimes agitated, and politically situated in distant right field. Later, he was a regular at the Public House, and he also employed one of my friends for quite some time at the Gun Room.

Jim’s Gun Room certainly had its following. Jim used it as a retail base while traveling to gun shows all over the country. Following is a 2008 message board excerpt attesting to Jim’s cult following among firearms aficionados.

I have a MM11 on the way (insert fecal eating grin here) and since the betamags are still sometime out and I cannot cough up 1200.00 clams for an HK 50rd Drum I was thinking of procuring some 30 rd contract mags. What would be a fair price for mint units? I remember them floating around for 30 bucks many moons ago but know I'm seeing them on GB for 100.00 plus ... I know Jim's Gun Room in New Albany IN was a major player in the HK world in the Mid80's through mid90's and I remember him having a couple of hundred of these in the back of his shop selling them mail order back then for $50 each. He had everything you can think of from that period HK. MP5 briefcases sitting around, MP5's lining the walls, G3's, PSG1's etc.....those were the days.

With the arrival of the decade of the 1990s, the story turns turbulent and strange – perhaps even nefarious – and if Gregg Seidl’s already told it, he can correct my version, which is this:

Rebecca Looney died of her own hand in January, 1992, upstairs at Jim’s Gun Room. At some point after her death, with finances continuing to unravel, the business was shuttered. Jim remained a gun dealer and still did some traveling. He moved from Oak Street into the Knobs, became interested in homebrewing, and dropped by the pub from time to time. Sad to say, his physical and mental decline became obvious. In 1998, he committed suicide at the age of 56.

Afterwards, the building formerly housing Jim’s Gun Room apparently once again became a favored “shot,” this time of amateur shutterbugs, enamored of the retro signage, inherited and modified by Jim from the original occupant, a bank. NAC provided an update in 2006.

The tacky Budweiser stickers from the ill-fated opium 'n' swill den known as Von's Place are gone. Let's hope that the Jim's Gun Room sign follows suit. While I have a several fond memories of the late firearm dealer Jim Looney, it's better for downtown to move past something that hasn't been open since the early 1990's. Good luck to the new owner.

It’s now 2012, and I’m told that Steve Resch has purchased the building and is renovating it by stripping away the many layers of tackiness added over the years, especially during the recent Espinosa Error.

We can thank Sister Hicks for that. But it's another story entirely.

3 comments:

MaryMQC said...

My grandfather was Jim - if you want to know anymore about the history of the store, I'd be glad to provide some insight.

The New Albanian said...

Sure, thanks. Hopefully my rendering is in the ballpark; going on memories and a few bits from the web. I had many good/animated talks with Jim during a ten or so year period. Seems like a very long time ago.

R Lloyd said...

Hello Mary - I am trying to find any of Jim P. Looney's family. I didn't think Jim and Becky had kids but wanted to see if you might be able to help?

Thanks!
Rob in Jacksonville, FL