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Life Experience inspires the opening of the W.Va. Survival Store | West Virginia News

By COLIN McGUIRE, The Journal

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) — If Efram Torres hasn’t seen it all, he has seen a lot.

There was a time when he worked as a first responder right after 9/11. Then there was also the period of his life when he took a position with FEMA in 2005 and was in New Orleans the day after Hurricane Katrina hit. He has been a firefighter, a police officer, and even currently works for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department in Virginia.

Through it all, Torres could sense something inside him, something that wanted to help people prepare for the worst. After finding himself in the Eastern Panhandle, the New York native began formulating a “small dream” of one day opening his own business aimed at providing people with the tools to survive a disaster.

Enter Smart Ass Survival.

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Based in Charles Town, the business, which is due to officially open on March 17, will offer everything from survival essentials to first aid kits, which are assembled by hand by Torres and his wife. Anyone who needs a flint striking tool or a collapsible mini woodstove for a tourniquet can find that and more at the new local business.

“We’re always spreading our wings,” Torres said in a recent interview. “We do shows and we sell wholesale. At the Charles Town storefront, we don’t know if we’ll get a ton of business there, but we thought, “Let’s give it a try,” and rented half a store. My thought and vision is to stay there for the next few months, maybe up to a year, have a sequel, and then maybe open somewhere bigger somewhere in Jefferson. Charles Town would be great to stay longer, but we don’t know if we can find a place there.”

The business was Torres’ dream, he explained. After spending his life helping people around the world, he wasn’t having a good time living in Loudoun County, which is why he moved his family to West Virginia. With his vast experience in the field – and his wife working as a nurse – the seed of the business came in the form of constantly seeing what he described as “first aid kits”.

As a result, the two came up with their own improved version of the tool.

From there, Torres assembled an IFAK kit that was so successful that one customer ordered 70 at a time. Among the items in the kit, Torres said, were moleskin for hiking, quick-clotting gauze and more. The kit, he explained, is designed to help people when their lives are in real danger – like when they are shot or have an accident with a chainsaw, among other things. To make things more attractive to the consumer, Torres said, Smart Ass Survival was able to lower the price of its IFAK kit because it was able to work with a manufacturer for its supplies.

“We try to target the everyday outdoorsman,” he said. “People going to shooting ranges, or even someone looking to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. I’ve always been a go-getter, and when you see everything that’s going on in the world right now, I think everyone should be prepared.

While the company name is light – Torres originally came up with ‘Smart Survival’ but his wife deemed it cheesy and suggested they build on his ability to be a smart ass – the intentions behind they are not. With so many outdoor activities in the Eastern Panhandle accessible to so many people, Torres emphasized that his company is all about helping people navigate the outdoors as best they can.

“Instead of us being a gun or camping store, think of us as an all-purpose survival store,” he said. “If you google a survival store, you won’t find one. We are the only ones, and people really need to consider being prepared because a lot of people are now witnessing it with their own eyes. There are wars, snowstorms on (Interstate) 95, the pandemic – people see that, and they should really consider coming to see us. We are not here just for the sale. I love talking to people, giving them advice, showing them a homecoming bag, and showing them the right tools and things to buy to keep them safe.

As for the future, Torres said he hopes to do small training classes, with enrollment starting as soon as possible. In the meantime, he will continue to attend trade shows to drive his business forward as the Charles Town location nears opening day.

It’s a family business, he said, as he brings his wife and four children to every show where the company sells products, with his eldest son being the company’s No. 1 salesperson.

“It’s kind of a lifestyle that you have to live to know what it is,” he said. “You have to know what to do and when to use it. I’m not saying I’m paranoid that all of this bad stuff could happen, but if you take a closer look, some things are actually happening right now.

He concluded, “After all my life experiences, I know 100% that everyone should be prepared 100% of the time.”

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