Gilroy’s archery store dedicated to bows and arrows takes up the YouTube challenge
Predator’s Archery in Gilroy sits between two malls that include a Big 5 Sporting Goods and Costco – usually great 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 to the big box stores to pick up a cheaper one and watch a few YouTube videos to guide you?
Nonsense, says Campisi.
“One thing about archery equipment, it has to fit the individual,” he said. “You just can’t pick a bow off the shelf.”
What about virtual classes?
“Trying to learn to swim on YouTube is guaranteed to drown. It’s the same with archery.
It is commitment and attention to detail that has enabled Campisi – owner of the Predator’s Archery shop and range since 1993 with his late partner Mike Pierce – to create a thriving business on Monterey Road devoted to archery. one of mankind’s oldest skills. We sat down with him to discuss how he got into the world of archery, why the sport is accessible to so many people, and the fascinating story of why he has a foam dinosaur in front of his shop door.
Q What is the story of your entry into this sport?
A So I saved my money when I was a kid. I went to Kmart and bought a fiberglass bow and arrow. Where we lived in Santa Clara at the time, the garden was quite large. And I used to shoot there. In college, I bought my first bow from a catalog and I don’t know anything about it. There was no archery shop nearby. The bow was actually technically too big for me. In high school, I met a few other guys who rode Mount Madonna Park. They had compound bows. Now it’s back in ’83 or ’82. So we started riding there and during my college years (at SJSU) I ended up joining the archery club. Then I started selling archery equipment to club members and just had a small business going.
Q And when did that become your business today?
A I had kind of partnered up with another archery shop in San Leandro, and they were selling me stuff wholesale. And so I asked him, what would it take to open an archery store? He says, “About $5,000. I say “$5,000?!” He says, “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, reinvest that money and buy more.
Q I see these more traditional arches on the wall. And then there are those more sophisticated and advanced compound bows. What is the difference between both ?
A There are different forms of traditional bow. There is the long bow. They are probably the oldest and associated with English Renaissance and medieval archery. It’s just a single stick. Then the next step is the recurve bow and the limbs bend forward. It’s faster, a little faster. And then we have, of course, the compound bows with the wheels. With a 60 pound recurve bow, which is quite heavy, this would shoot an arrow at around 180 feet per second. A 60-pound compound bow will shoot that same arrow at 280 to 340 feet per second. It’s a huge difference.
Q Are people who come to your store hunting or honing their skills at the range?
A We have therefore always promoted sport as a target and a family activity. We never really pushed the hunting aspect. The industry is 95% hunting, 5% targeting. Here in California, we really are not a hunting state. And hunting is a seasonal activity for a few months of the year, where target archery is a 365 day activity.
Q What is the big challenge in your industry?
A The YouTube generation. Everyone thinks they could learn from YouTube. If you don’t have a real coach or mentor on your side to show you what you’re doing wrong, you’re just not going to be successful.
Q And does Zoom make it harder for you too?
A (On Zoom) you have no one directing your body position, your elbow height, the compression technique through the shot, analyzing the different things that need to be there. You have to be able to go around the person 360 degrees to analyze this plan and how to make it work properly.
Q Why is this company important?
A It’s very diverse. Anyone could do it. I mean, you might miss arms and legs and still be shooting archery. There are a lot of Paralympic archers.
Q How do they do?
A Some shoot their bow with their teeth. They only have one arm, and they hold the bow with their good arm, and they pull the string with their teeth. We put what is called a mouth tap. And this one is 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 strap that hooks over his shoulder, and he pulls the bow back, and he bends over it with his cheek, and he activates the release with his face. He is one of the best archers of the moment.
Q Alright, I have to ask. Why is there a dinosaur in front of your store? Do you practice if they come back to life?
A In the early 2000s, everyone was putting A-frame signs in front of their business, and they were getting bigger. So the city passed an ordinance: no more A-frame panels above a certain size. But nowhere in the ordinance does it say anything about dinosaurs. It is therefore Gilroy’s most famous dinosaur. You search (on Google) “dinosaur Gilroy” and it appears. And he’s been our mascot for probably over 20 years.
Q And the city has never given you trouble?
Title: Owner of Predator’s Archery at Gilroy since 1993 (in partnership with Mike Pierce, who died September 2021)
Possessed animal mounts: 12 different species, including warthogs, rams and a Russian boar
FIVE THINGS ABOUT CURTIS AND HIS SHOP
- Curtis’ shop was particularly unique when it opened opposite where it now stands, as there were only bars in that area at the time on Monterey Road.
- The supply chain crisis also affected Curtis’ shop. Much of the inventory he currently receives comes from online orders that are eight months old.
- The first dollar Curtis earned for his business came from a guy he had never met before, but was happy that an archery store was opening. (Curtis has the dollar displayed above his cash register.)
- Curtis has been shooting since he was 12
- Curtis has traveled to South Africa seven times and Australia three times for hunting trips