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Predator’s Archery in Gilroy sits between two shopping malls that include a Big 5 Sporting Goods and Costco — usually big competition for niche brick-and-mortar businesses like Curtis Campisi’s shop.

After all, why spend hundreds of dollars on a custom bow and arrow and in-person lessons when you can just head over to the big-box stores for a cheaper one and flip on a few YouTube videos for pointers?

Nonsense, says Campisi.

“One thing about archery equipment, it has to be custom fit to the individual,” he said. “You just can’t pick a bow up off the shelf.”

And the virtual classes?

“Trying to learn to swim from YouTube, you’re guaranteed to drown. That’s the same thing with archery.”

GILROY, CALIFORNIA – JULY 22: A goat bust wears a hat with an arrow in it at Predator’s Archery in Gilroy, Calif., Friday, July 22, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

It’s the commitment and attention to detail that has allowed Campisi — owner of Predator’s Archery shop and range since 1993 along with his late partner Mike Pierce — to build a thriving business on Monterey Road devoted to one of mankind’s most ancient skills. We sat down with him to discuss how he got into the archery business, why the sport is accessible to so many and the fascinating story about why he has a foam dinosaur in front of his shop door.

Q What is the story of you getting into this sport?

A So I saved up my money when I was a kid. I went to Kmart and I bought a fiberglass bow and arrow. Where we lived in Santa Clara at the time, the backyard was fairly big. And I used to shoot back there. In junior high, I bought my first bow out of a catalog and I don’t know anything. There was no archery shop nearby. The bow was actually technically too big for me. In high school I met a couple of other guys that used to go up to Mount Madonna Park. They had compound bows. Now this is back in ’83 or ’82. So then we started going up there and in my college years (at SJSU), I ended up joining the archery club. Then I started selling some archery equipment to the club members and just had a little business going.

Q And when did that turn into your business today?

A I had kind of partnered with another archery shop in San Leandro, and he was wholesaling me stuff. And so I had asked him, what would it take to open an archery shop? He goes, “About $5,000. I go, “$5,000?!” He goes, “You have a partner. Working your other jobs, you work the store part time. When you sell an item, you reinvest that money and buy more items. You sell an item, you reinvest that money and buy more on it.”

Q I see these more traditional looking bows on the wall. And then there are these more fancy, advanced compound bows. What’s the difference between the two?

A There’s a couple of different forms of traditional bow. There’s the long bow. These are probably the oldest and associated with English and medieval Renaissance type archery. It’s just a single stick. Then the next step is the recurve bow, and the limbs curve forward. It is faster, a little bit more speed. And then we have, of course, the compound bows with the wheels. With a 60 pound recurve bow, which is fairly heavy, that would cast an arrow at about 180ft/second. A 60 pound compound bow will cast that same arrow at 280 to 340ft/second. It’s a huge difference.

GILROY, CALIFORNIA – JULY 22: Curtis Campisi, of Gilroy, shoots at a target in one of his stores archery ranges at Predator’s Archery in Gilroy, Calif., Friday, July 22, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Q Are the people coming into your store mostly hunting or refining their skills at the range?

A So we’ve always promoted the sport as a target and family activity. We never really pushed the hunting aspect. The industry is 95% hunting, 5% target. Out here in California, we’re really not a hunting state. And hunting is a seasonal activity for a few months out of the year, where target archery is a 365 a day activity.

Q What’s a big challenge in your industry?

A The YouTube generation. Everybody thinks they could learn from YouTube. If you don’t have an actual coach or a mentor next to you to show you what you’re doing wrong, you’re just not going to get it right.

Q And is Zoom making it hard for you, too?

A (On Zoom) you don’t have somebody there directing your body position, your elbow height, the squeeze technique through the shot, analyzing the different things that need to be there. You have to be able to walk around the person 360 degrees in order to analyze this shot and how to make it go off properly.

Q Why is this business important?

A It’s very diversified. Everybody could do it. I mean, you could be missing arms and legs and still shoot archery. There’s a lot of Paralympic archers.

Q How do they do it?

A Some pull their bow back with their teeth. They have only one arm, and they hold the bow with their good arm, and they pull the string back with their teeth. We put on what’s called a mouth tap. And this is one to look up for inspiration. His name is Matt Stutzman. He’s a Paralympic archer. He shoots with his feet. He was born without arms. So he holds the bow with his toes, pulls the back. He has a shoulder strap that hooks to his shoulder, and he pulls the bow back, and he leans into it with his cheek, and he activates the release with his face. He’s one of the top archers out there.

GILROY, CALIFORNIA – JULY 22: Curtis Campisi, of Gilroy, stands near his store behind a dinosaur statue he placed on the sidewalk at Predator’s Archery in Gilroy, Calif., Friday, July 22, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Q Alright, I have to ask. Why is there a dinosaur in the front of your store? Are you practicing if they come back to life?

A Back in early 2000s, everybody was putting A-frame signs out in front of their business, and they were getting bigger. So the city passed an ordinance: No more A-frame signs over a certain size. But nowhere in the ordinance does it say anything about dinosaurs. So that is the most famous dinosaur in Gilroy. You look up (on Google) “dinosaur Gilroy” and he comes up. And it’s been our mascot for probably well over 20 years.

Q And the city’s never given you trouble?

A No.

CURTIS CAMPISI

Title: Owner of Predator’s Archery in Gilroy since 1993 (partnered with Mike Pierce, who passed away in September 2021)

Residence: Gilroy

Animal mounts owned: 12 different species, including warthogs, rams and a Russian boar

GILROY, CALIFORNIA – JULY 22: Curtis Campisi, of Gilroy, stands in one of his archery ranges at Predator’s Archery in Gilroy, Calif., Friday, July 22, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

FIVE THINGS ABOUT CURTIS AND HIS SHOP

  • Curtis’ shop was especially unique when it opened across the street from the location it is now because there were only bars in that area at the time on Monterey Road.
  • The supply chain crisis has also affected Curtis’ shop. Much of the inventory he’s receiving now is from eight month-old online orders.
  • The first dollar Curtis earned for his business came from a guy who he had never met before but was happy that an archery shop was opening. (Curtis has the dollar posted above his cash register.)
  • Curtis has been shooting since he was 12 years old
  • Curtis has been to South Africa seven times and Australia three times for hunting trips

News Source: mercurynews.com

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