From 7 to 76 – Archery Den caters to all ages

CHARLES ERICKSON/FOR THE LEADER-HERALDDennis Francis, co-owner of The Archery Den, works at a service bench in the Perth store, which opened in 2020 and also features indoor shooting ranges. “We service all kinds of bows,” he said, “and most of them, right on the spot.”

Dennis Francis, co-owner of The Archery Den, works at a service bench in the Perth store, which opened in 2020 and also features indoor shooting ranges. “We service all kinds of bows,” he said, “and most of them, right on the spot.”

By Charles Erickson

For The Leader-Herald

PERTH – The Archery Den’s three-dimensional shooting range is reached by walking down a corridor that leads to the back of a metal building at 4303 State Highway 30. It looks like a large outdoor set on a Hollywood soundstage, with overhead lighting and walls painted blue-gray to make the foregrounds pop better.

“This is something we have put together and keep adding to it,” said Dennis Francis, co-owner, as he ushered a visitor onto the range and past plasticized versions of deer, an elk, coyote, moose, javelina, skunk, a bear and even an alligator. Each has scoring rings – worth 10, 8 or 5 points.

Wood chips on the floor not only quiet the room, but also give it an outdoorsy smell. Undecorated artificial Christmas trees are used to provide greenery and serve as cover. There are also assorted logs, fences and the top half of a wagon wheel. Up to 20 people, each at a numbered station, can be firing at their designated prey from a distance of 30 yards.

“You won’t see this anywhere else in your travels,” said Francis. “This is a major draw.”

Francis was drawn back to this building in 2020, five years after he sold the business. Then, it was called Bowhunters Plus. Francis was not interested in revisiting the past, beyond saying commercial missteps were made after the 2015 sale.

“I was asked by the landlord if I wanted to come back in here,” Francis recalled. “The place was totally in shambles.”

Francis returned, this time with a business partner and longtime friend: Dan Freer. The Archery Den became the new name for a business that had started here in 2005.

Sales of archery gear, including both new and used bows, is the largest segment of revenues, according to Francis. Service is the second segment, and range rentals and archery instruction to groups and individuals is the third part of the business.

Francis manages the store full time and concentrates on the service and instructional end of the enterprise. A single employee is on the payroll and helps with the retail side. Freer, the other owner, has a day job but comes in on weeknights to work the front counter until the shop closes at 8 p.m. This is a six-day business which does not operate on Sundays.

“I began shooting archery in 1969,” said Francis, 68. He favors using his left hand. “Back then, you couldn’t get a left-handed bow, so I started shooting right-handed, which I do today.”

Technology has changed the state of the art, Francis added. Arrows used to be made from aluminum and bend easily. Now they are made of carbon fibers and are very durable. Bows were also constructed of aluminum, which made them heavier than the carbon-fiber “composite” bows sold today.

“What I was using in 1969 is pretty crude when compared to now,” Francis said.

While customers are primarily male, the store’s co-owner said a surprising number of women patronize The Archery Den. The ages of some recent patrons ran from 7 to 76.

The 3D archery range, in the back of the building, is used by leagues and individuals. More than two dozen traditional archery lanes are located on two levels behind the store’s retail and service departments. The fee to use them is $10 a day.

There are 13 archery lanes on the first floor, and a like number on the level above them. Each is 20 yards from the paper targets which have been affixed to a wall. Francis estimated that about a third of the people who use the ranges are content with shooting only at inanimate targets. The others also use their bows for hunting big game.

Jerry Kelleher, 12, from Gloversville, was shooting arrows from the third lane on a recent Saturday afternoon. The time between the sound of the release of the arrow – a “TWICK” – and the sound of the impact – a “THWOP” – was under a second.

“I’m practicing and tuning the bow up so I can hunt,” said Kelleher, as his father stood nearby so he could critique the boy’s form.

Francis said revenues at The Archery Den are about half what they were when he sold the business, as Bowhunters Plus, in 2015. Economic inflation has pushed up the prices of new hardware, he said, and supply-chain issues during COVID-19 made it difficult to restock the store when Francis and Freer assumed ownership.

“It’s not cheap to run an archery shop,” Francis said. Having a retail inventory is essential so people can buy on impulse, but it means the owners have a significant amount of money tied up on the sales floor. Some bows cost $1,000, and up to $1,800 when fully equipped for delivery.



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