An Arlington County gun store owner who enraged neighbors — first by claiming it was owned by his 16-year-old daughter and then by suing them for speaking out in opposition — has sold the property to an employee.
Dennis R. Pratte, who opened Nova Armory in March under the business name of Broadstone Security, said he sold the business Aug. 19 to Shawn Poulin, the store’s manager, who continues to operate it.
Poulin, in an interview at the store Saturday, said that the business is “in the black” and that he plans to expand to the second floor, with a showroom to feature rifles, tactical gear and an expanded clothing line. The former Marine said he’s the majority owner of the store. He said his partner is a Fairfax County company that makes amphibious patrol boats, but he would not name the firm.
That level of discretion is in keeping with Pratte’s early unwillingness to name the owner and partners in his business. He eventually claimed that his daughter, then a junior at Langley High School, was the real owner, although she is too young to sign a business license.
The store opened in March despite opposition from Lyon Park neighbors, who said its appearance was an unwelcome surprise. They objected to its proximity to a day-care center across the street. The store is also just two blocks from a military base and is housed in a retail strip where zoning allows any legitimate business use. Virginia law prohibits local governments from imposing stricter regulations on firearms retailers.
Yet local lawmakers sent a letter on General Assembly letterhead urging Pratte’s landlord to reconsider the lease.
Pratte sued those lawmakers and others, including people who spoke out on social media against him. He claimed that he was forced to spend time and money battling defamatory comments, harassing phone calls and emails, and a mailed death threat.
The suit, originally filed in Richmond, has been transferred to the Arlington courts; several of Pratte’s outspoken critics have since declined to comment. They pointed out that the store had a mid-September break-in, although police said no guns were taken.
Poulin, who is also a neighborhood resident, said he has had mostly positive support from customers, many of whom live in the District.
Poulin said he is also in business with Pratte overseas, with Broadstone Security’s Macedonian holding company, which will manufacture body armor, ammunition, silencers and firearms.
Pratte said that the Macedonian business prompted him to sell the Arlington store. He said that protesters “cost us a lot of money before even opening the doors” and that he did not have time to operate both businesses. His daughter, he said, is now busy with “high school and varsity volleyball . . . and getting her college applications filed.”