A lifeline for fishers: Granby Bait & Tackle Shop a ‘go-to’ spot for WMass anglers

  • José Díaz, a customer at Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, stands outside the shop on March 7. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul Delp Jr., another son of the owners, cleans fish tanks at the shop last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brandan Delp, son of the owners of Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, puts away the ice fishing supplies as the shop prepares for the spring and summer season of fishing last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul Delp, owner of Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, talks about his business while cleaning tanks filled with bait in the shop last week. Delp says he started selling fishing bait out of the family basement when he was 9 years old. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS


  • Paul Delp, owner of Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, in the shop Monday afternoon, March 7. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul and Veronica Delp, owners of Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, in the shop Monday afternoon, March 7. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • One of the many fish sold as bait at Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, owned by Paul and Veronica Delp. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul Delp, owner of Granby Bait & Tackle Shop, stands outside the shop Monday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2022

GRANBY — Paul Delp has been selling fishing bait ever since he was 9 years old, when he claims that his out-of-the-basement operation landed him on the state Department of Revenue’s radar because he wasn’t paying taxes.

With a wry grin often on his face, it’s unclear whether Delp was joking about landing in hot water with the state. But one thing is clear: 50 years later, selling bait, tackle and anything else people going fishing need is what he and his family do best.

“We’ve always been here,” said Delp, who runs the Granby Bait & Tackle Shop at 178 South St. with his wife, Veronica, and their four children.

To the uninitiated, Granby Bait might seem like a difficult-to-find hole in the wall. But for those who fish in western Massachusetts and beyond, it’s the go-to spot. The business wholesales to other bait shops around the region, not to mention other institutions; last week, the family said they had just finished fulfilling a contract with the city of New York for fish to stock municipal ponds.

“He’s my favorite — he helps with whatever I need,” Holyoke resident José Díaz said last week in Spanish, walking across the family’s muddy driveway to his car. Diaz said he’s been coming to the store for two decades: “I buy everything here, I get my license here.”

The shop and wholesale operations are located behind the family’s house. It’s the same house where Paul grew up, and he and Veronica bought the home from his parents. When they were getting married in their 20s, Veronica said, she would have never imagined their business would grow so big.

Granby Bait has come a long way from the early days when Paul would sell the nightcrawlers he was digging up himself.

Nowadays, the business wholesales to more than 400 convenience and bait shops across the region, storing bait fish in a series of big open tanks in a room behind the store counter. Last week, there were white suckers in one tank, for example — “ice fishing bait,” Veronica said — and rosy red fathead minnows in another. A tractor trailer delivers fish to the property once a week, backing down the driveway and pumping fish through tubes into the store’s tanks.

It takes a lot of work to run the wholesale operation, which accounts for much of the bait shop’s business, the Delps said.

“Every week, somebody has to hop in and clean these tanks,” Veronica said.

The store also has a very loyal customer base who line up out the door on good fishing days. Paul Delp said that during the peak of ice fishing season, the store gets between 500 and 1,000 customers in a single day. He recalled a day this year when he was in the back room all day from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The store, located down the family’s driveway, has everything from top-line sport fishing lures to basic poles for those wanting to get set up to go fishing for the first time. A selection of worms sit in containers behind glass in grocery store-style coolers — everything from night crawlers and trout worms to mealworms of various sizes — and the walls are filled with colorful bait.

“Old fishermen never die,” one sign on the wall reads. “They just smell that way.”

Members of the boisterous family love to joke with one another, last week recounting stories of having fallen through the ice while fishing in winters past. They have continued to expand the business every year, installing a new well to fill the storage tanks, for example, and planning to add a new building in the back of the property for even more storage.

“Someday I hope to retire and these guys take over,” Veronica said, pointing to her sons Paul Jr., 35, and Brandan, 33.

But for the moment, business is booming. And when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the bait shop was one of the few local businesses that recorded an increase in sales as many rediscovered outdoor activities including hiking or fishing.

“When COVID hit, we were pushed to the limit,” Veronica Delp said.

Paul Delp said that many in the region remember coming to Granby Bait with their grandfathers, and are now bringing their children in. He said the store also sees new customers every day.

The Delps said there used to be something like 20 similar shops within a 10-mile radius. Now, however, Granby Bait is one of the few left as the Walmarts of the world take business. The shop has grown every year, and the family said they intend to keep growing in order to stay in business.

“Today,” Paul Delp reflected, “customers come to us and say, ‘Thanks for being here.’”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.