Tom & Ray DiRisio: Washington, New Jersey
Dissatisfied with their first pro shop experiences, mechanically minded brothers Tom and Ray DiRisio began to formulate a plan. Their goal: open an archery pro shop where customers could get professional, sound advice on all things archery. That plan was laid out 21 years ago, and today, their 3,000-square-foot shop, dubbed Strictly Archery, is a booming business in Washington, New Jersey.
Totally dedicated to target archery and bowhunting, Tom and his brother Ray are a true two-man show. Since opening their doors in 1993, the brothers have handled all aspects of running Strictly Archery and to this day serve as the shop’s only full-time employees. Paul Sapiro, a good friend and archery wizard, does pop into the shop to assist from time to time.
Aside from offering top-notch service to their many customers—most who travel hours to purchase archery gear or have Tom or Ray tune their bows—Tom hosts helpful tech tip videos on www.whitetailkillers.com. In addition, Tom has captured numerous world, international, national, and state titles in both 3-D and target archery.
Both Tom and Ray admit they have sold most every make and model of bow over the years, but now focus on PSE, Hoyt, BOWTECH, Elite, Bear, Prime, Xpedition, and a local bow company: Conquest. Carrying so many brands, the brothers invest loads of time into learning about the specifics and functionality of every bow that hangs in their shop. This way, they can easily set up and tune any make and model and provide customers with a great overall experience.
What follows is more insight from Strictly Archery, which was profiled in the May/June issue of Archery Business.
Archery Business: What are some specific keys to your success?
Tom DiRisio: I don’t know of any other sport where participants don’t have a coach. In my mind, archery isn’t any different. We get a lot of guys and gals—seasoned veterans and newcomers to the sport— who think they know how to shoot properly. Of course, we take them at their word, but always manage to trick them into a little lesson. Most are blown away. In fact, most get so much out of a short lesson that archery either instantly becomes fun or they find a new love for the sport because of the groups they begin to shoot. As a pro shop owner you must be a people person, and you must be able to appeal to every customer. Taking time to shoot with them opens the lines of communication, even on a small indoor range like ours, and gives you the opportunity to teach them something. Be ready to educate and train every archer who walks through your doors.
Ray DiRisio: In 21 years of doing this, we have worked with a lot of customers. One thing we have done from the start and still do today is keep a paper trail. Not only are customers impressed by this, but it saves us a ton of time. We keep log sheets on every bow we tune. Yes, we record every bow brand, make, and model that we work on or sell. In addition, we record tiller setting, nock point, kisser button location, peep sight height, axle-to-axle length, and the list goes on. We also keep information on what arrow the particular customer is shooting—the length, type, fletch orientation, weight, kinetic energy produced—everything is recorded. This way when someone comes in with a problem, we have a jumping off point. Plus, this allows customers to call us on the phone and describe simple problems to us. Sometimes it can be as elementary as them needing a new string, or they may have to come in and we find the original spec sheet is still spot-on with the current settings. That’s when we go to the range for a quick lesson to see what bad habit the person has developed since their last lesson.
Archery Business: What new-for-2014 products are you excited about selling?
Tom DiRisio: If we won’t use it, we won’t sell it. That’s just the way it is. We are excited about Prime and their line of bows. Honestly, all the top-end bow companies are making such great models that they make it easy for us to push them. We know the bows are great, so we have no problem getting people into a new model bow. Also, the React Sight from Trophy Ridge has done incredibly well for us. Anytime you can stock a product that is efficient and easy to use, it gets a lot of attention.
Ray DiRisio: I’m really excited about Xpedition Archery out of South Dakota. They are making a great line of bows. They set up easy, are smooth to draw, and really have a lot going for them. I look for this company to really jump up in the coming years. I also love Quality Archery Designs. Their rests are easy to install, tune, and are loaded with technology. We love them and so do our customers.
Archery Business: What have you learned about operating in today’s economy?
Ray DiRisio: As a nation we are experiencing a tough economic time, but we are finding that even in times of financial turmoil, people still fall back on their hobbies. The key to operating during these difficult times is realizing there are three levels of archers. There is your beginner, entry-level types; your hobbyists; and your enthusiasts who live and breathe archery 12 months a year. We find we always have a few enthusiasts in the shop at all times, and we love to get them talking when we get new or hobby archers in the shop. The reason for this is our enthusiasts start talking about their many different bows and accessories. The newcomers and hobby archers hang on every word and soon realize there is often a need for a second bow or some other sort of accessory. Let those guys, the true enthusiasts, talk to other archers in the shop.
Archery Business: Any tips for new dealers on achieving longevity?
Tom DiRisio: In our 21 years of business we have noticed most shops don’t make it past the four-year mark. This is sad. The biggest reason I can see is most shops go under because they aren’t technical shops. Sure, they may carry great products, but most know very little about those products. A shop that knows their product lines inside and out, knows how to fit a customer to bow, how to properly set bows up, how to use a customer’s bow rig to help them make a proper arrow selection, and instruct them how to shoot will succeed. It’s a fact that 80 percent of our business comes from customers who drive an hour or more one way to come see us. They do so because they know we have the knowledge and can effectively share that knowledge.
Archery Business: What are some of your archery industry pet peeves?
Ray DiRisio: Fashion is cool in target archery and bowhunting, and this makes things very difficult on us. It’s hard to stock every color of peep, vibration dampener, strings, and the like. On the same note, it’s hard to keep up with all the bow color and accessory color options. I will get a guy in here who loves the bow I show him, but because I don’t have the bow in a certain color, he doesn’t buy it. We end up having a few bows and other accessory items left over at the end of every year simply because their particular color or pattern wasn’t popular.