A few weeks ago an old friend passed away in his sleep. He wasn’t a celebrity so you didn’t hear about it on the news. But those of you who have frequented local Los Angeles gun stores have probably come across him at one time or another. Don Baroni was a fixture in the Los Angeles gun community. Over the course of our acquaintance he had probably worked at every one of the major gun stores in the valley and helped so many people, from customers to friends, navigate the often complex industry we find our selves in.
If memory serves, we first met Don at B & B Gun store in North Hollywood over 26 years ago where he worked behind the counter. Don was a big man in both stature and heart. He was always generous in sharing his knowledge and giving encouragement to Scott and me when we were just starting out in the business. At that time there were only two or three schools teaching firearms and we often had gun store employees come out and train with us. Don took it very seriously and motivated the other employees to follow suit.
Scott and I used to drop off flyers at B & B on a regular basis (imagine, this was before the internet took off) and we always looked forward to seeing Don. He was one of the most knowledgeable people we have ever come across. If there was a question relating to firearms, Don knew the answer. And on those rare occasions that he didn’t, he would do research and get back to us. Don was a true professional.
After B & B closed down, Don moved on to Turners Outdoorsman in Reseda, then to the LAPD Academy gun store as manager and eventually to the Oak Tree Gun Club where he managed their gun store and made it a great success. Every time he moved, we followed him because loyalty and trust are not easy to find and Don was our ‘go to’ guy who never disappointed.
Over the years, Don saved my skin probably more than he ever knew. What seems like a lifetime ago, we hosted the annual Krav Maga summer camp firearms day. Each summer Don came out with 50+ rental guns for that day and helped catalog every single one that went out. It was a mad rush to get the students set up and on line, but he pulled it off flawlessly. When we were hired to do specialized training for a very prominent group and found out the last minute that they were not able to get the ammo needed, Don didn’t blink, even with the ammunition shortage. He had everything loaded up and ready to go for our customer within a day of my contacting him.
I don’t think I ever really expressed to him what a great friend I thought he was or how much we depended on him. I wish now that I could take him to lunch or just call him to say hello. But that is often the case with people who touch our lives and then are suddenly gone.
Don was of another era –where social media did not exist as a vehicle for communicating with friends and people met face to face and did business with a handshake. As much as things have been made easier over the past 26 years, the initial days of going out and meeting people at the gun stores was a way of experiencing the pulse of the industry. Don was always at the heart of that.
His devoted wife, Pam, who manages Turners in Reseda, survives Don, as do the many people who were lucky enough to call him friend. We will miss you, dear friend.