COLUMBUS — Jeff Mullinix knows a thing or two about waterfowl hunting.
He grew up in Schuyler and targeted ducks and geese along the Platte River as a teen.
“Every moment I could get I would hunt,” Mullinix said.
After graduating from high school, he took a job working second shift at Cargill specifically so he could get on the water in the mornings.
There was something about putting out decoys, eating a warm breakfast in the blind and spending time with buddies while luring in birds that he connected with.
Mullinix, who lives just north of Columbus now, never lost that love over the years. That’s why it made complete sense when he purchased a longtime Nebraska business that produces top-of-line blinds.
“We’ve got a passion for waterfowl hunting, I’ve been doing commercial stitching for about 20 years, I’m a machinist by trade and I’ve got a sales background,” he said.
Mullinix previously worked for Pop-Up Blind for one season in 2001 under former owners Jim and Carol Rollman. When they were looking to sell after moving from Madison to Iowa, he was definitely interested.
The deal was completed late last year, following Jim’s death, and Mullinix moved the operation to a shop next to his home near Lakeview Junior/Senior High School.
Along with the company name and designs created by Jack Adelman when he founded Pop-Up Blind in 1982, Mullinix acquired a reputation for quality products that’s known across the country.
He’s heard from people still using the same Adelman-designed blind 20-plus years later and is proud to continue the tradition of offering American-made products with a lifetime warranty.
The company’s main products are a portable blind for one person that can be used for waterfowl, deer, turkey, quail and coyote hunting and a larger blind designed specifically for a customer’s boat.
The portable unit weighs just 22 pounds and folds up so it can easily be tossed over the shoulder and carried to a favorite hunting spot.
Boat blinds are designed using specific dimensions and seat locations submitted by customers. Each one is a custom order.
“Everybody else in the industry makes a one-size-fits-none blind,” Mullinix said. “Their intentions are to make a one-size-fits-all product, but the problem is it’s always too big for one boat and too small for the next.”
Both Pop-Up Blind models are made from the same camouflage Cordura material that keeps hunters out of the wind, cold, snow and rain, as well as a passing bird’s line of sight.
“That’s the beauty of our whole blind system is you’re completely enclosed,” Mullinix said.
The blinds feature mesh screens for hunters to look through before hitting a lever to quickly retract the top when they’re ready to fire.
Mullinix, who sells industrial carbide tools during his day job, constructs the frames and stitches the material together inside his shop with help from his wife Heidi, children and other family members.
“If we can work on something we’re passionate about, make some money doing it and hang out together, that’s a win-win for all of us,” he said.
Pop-Up Blind sells directly to customers through its website, www.popupblind.com, with a vast majority of sales coming from outside Nebraska, where more people hunt waterfowl using boats.
Orders set to go out over the next week or so are heading to South Dakota, Missouri, Utah, Virginia and Montana and Mullinix has fielded recent calls from California to Tennessee.
In the months ahead, the family will work on updating the company website and expanding its social media presence.
The business is also partnering with Iowa-based Mudbob, which produces a lightweight floating platform called a Water Walker that’s used for hunting and fishing, to market a waterfowl package that includes a Pop-Up Blind.
Mullinix plans to bring on some part-time seasonal workers next year and has a long-term goal of starting his own line of leather hunting bags.
“I wouldn’t mind doing this full time,” he said.