SONORA, Calif. — Old town Sonora has changed over the years.
The gold rush town has fewer miners and lot more tourists. There is, however, one place where you can get a taste of what old Sonora used to be. All you have to do is walk into the Sportsman, a licensed gun shop and bar.
Inside you'll meet Steve Kane, a barkeep and gun salesman, so his job title is a little complex.
“I prefer the old term 'storekeeper,'” Kane said.
No matter what you call him, Kane always checks identification and/or your criminal background, depending on what you're buying. And often time, customers buy what has become the "Sportsman’s Special."
“Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm and a Firestone Walker Mind Haze,” Kane said.
Inside the shop, ammunition is within arm's reach of the bottle opener and the bar table a step away from the firearms. Getting a permit to build a place like this anywhere else in California would probably be impossible unless you have the same grandfathered in law permits like the Sportsman has.
“The bar has not been shut down in any length of time in the past 73 years,” Kane said.
A number of new owners have stepped up to keep the business going, but it was a WWII veteran and Sonora native who held the Sportsman’s first gun/alcohol license.
“Vic Filiberti was the original owner back in 1947,” Kane said. Before Filiberti opened the Sportsman, the building was a smoke shop.
“It was Puncher and Burns cigar shop," Kane said.
The Sportsman is rich with history only kept alive by the faithful patrons and the multi-tasking store keeps.
“Not sure if we are the last. I would love if anyone knows,” Kane said.