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SI takes a look at Arrow Manufacturing Inc.: 25 years of making and selling arrows all around the world.


For over twenty-five years, Dana and Lillian Paff have been making and selling arrows on Logan Avenue in Costa Mesa, California. Their first major customers for their Accro-Flite brand arrows were local schools. From that small clientele, the family has expanded wholesale distribution operations to retailers not only in the U.S., but to countries as far away as New Zealand, Tahiti, and Chile, as well as to European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

Before devoting all of their time to an archery wholesale and retail enterprise, the couple had worked part-time manufacturing office partitions at their own shop, to earn extra money. Mrs. Paff's sister and husband persuaded them to initially enter into the arrow making business. And, thus, Lillian Paff ran the business for two years while her husband worked as an industrial engineer.

Several experienced archers taught the Paffs the fundamentals of arrow construction, "Then we started showing them how to do it," said Dana Paff. Over two decades ago, one day a lady came into the shop to purchase some arrows, and Mrs. Paff mentioned that she needed some workers to help out in the shop. The next day, Henny Weiss returned and offered her services to the store, where she still works today.

One of the Paff's six children, Edwin, began working for his parents, tapering shafts after school, as the business began to grow. He now is the manager at Arrow Manufacturing, which sold over 11,000 dozen arrows in 1988, to dealers and individuals around the world.

By the way, the aluminum shafts used in the making of Accro-Flite arrows come from Easton Aluminum, the fiberglass from Glassform or Risco, and material for fabricating wooden arrows from Acme Wood Products. The arrows are then assembled, using a wide range of colors and fletching styles cut at the appropriate length desired by the customers.

After some of their steady customers who came in to purchase arrows requested other services and archery equipment, the family slowly diversified into a retail business. Today, the store now offers many bow modifications, including changing cables, switching between cams or wheels, and anything else to be done with arrows. They also sell tools and supplies for the do-it-yourself archer or organization that does a great amount of shooting. The Paff family and employees also built their own arrow straightener from a Groves Archery patent which they purchased several years ago.

Arrow Manufacturing carries a wide range of popular bows, including Hoyt/Easton, Martin, Proline, Ben Pearson, High Country, PSE, Bear, Browning and TSS.

In the time that California legalized crossbow hunting, during rifle seasons in 1985, the hard-to-find weapons have sold relatively well at the store. Barnett International is the major brand they carry, and it continues to sell well despite early media objections to the introduction of crossbows, based on claims poachers used them to take game illegally. According to Edwin Paff, "They aren't a good poaching weapon because (crossbows) are real short range and they kill by it can take as long as thirty minutes to take an animal and poachers don't want to wait around for that."

A renewed interest in traditional bowhunting has increased sales of recurves and longbows to a small extent. Accompanying wooden arrows with feather fletchings have also had a resurgence for use in hunting situations. The manager defines this slight change in hunter attitudes by saying, "I think a few people just got tired of all the hype on compounds and speed. You can only go so far before people get tired of it." Electronic laser sights and other high technology shooting equipment tends to be over-looked by most hunters because trophies taken with their aid are not qualified for coveted Pope & Young recognition.

The original consumer demand for survival gear such as special knives and take-down bows has decreased since time has passed when Hollywood's emphasis was on exotic, silent weapons. Recurves are easier to market as take-down because of their relative simple reassembly versus that of a many cabled compound bow. Backpackers and other outdoorsmen with space restrictions continue to purchase take-down arrows in small quantities as well as inserts to make their own.

The sport of archery has many newcomers, but it also has a high turnover rate because some novices lose interest in a short time. One way to keep someone from abandoning their new sport is to get them enrolled in an archery club. For folks living in the Costa Mesa, California area, Edwin Paff recommends the local organization of El Toro Archers, the only roving range in the area.

Some of the new entrants into the sport of archery are rifle hunters who dislike the competition with other armed people, during the regular hunting season. Another reason for hunters wanting to learn archery skills is the longer hunting time available for those proficient in both sports.

A problem a few beginners have when they first hunt is with trying to judge distance to the animal. In order to improve their accuracy, a roving range with hills -- and lots of practice -- is a good idea. Fairly new additions for hunting include sight pins and rear peep sights in the bow string. Although these require less training time, determining the yardage to a target is still very important in order to choose which pin to use on the sight.

A major advancement in bow technology has been the introduction of Fastflight, which replaced Dacron as the material used to manufacture bow strings. This new material will not stretch, which caused the tear drops at the end of cable bows to break under the increased stress. At first, bow makers responded by voiding the warranties on any Dacron supplied bow that was changed to Fastflight by the consumer. Eventually, stronger bows were made to handle the faster string, since a good number of archers continue to be interested in speed and flatness of trajectory. New additions for bows that help achieve increased accuracy include overdraws and lightweight arrows and broadheads, which are also sold at Arrow Manufacturing.

Another little recognized archery activity, which seems to be catching on is bowfishing. The number of people interested in this fairly new sport that combines archery and angling skills is steadily increasing. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of archery sport, reels are mounted on archery bows and contestants try to shoot and land as many non-game fish as possible, during these tournaments. (Some tournaments in the U.S. have awards of up to fifty thousand dollars, which do peak the interest of archers, as well as non-archers.)

While seven people work at Arrow Manufacturing now, in the summer an extra two or three employees are added to keep up with the increased demand from schools and from hunters. With the advent of hunting season rapidly approaching. August is their busiest month for both their retail as well as their wholesale operation.

The winter holidays and mail order sales keep things moving between seasons. In fact, "Christmas business last year was really big," said Edwin Paff. During the winter in Europe, arrow sales increase as more and more people enter the sport of archery to pass the time, during the long, cold months. Indoor lanes and other sheltered shooting areas, once prevalent in the United States, provide a place for Europeans to practice their sport and to socialize.

Even though Edwin Paff has never thought about quitting and entering another field, the business has become harder as a result of the constant change in terms of bow styles and unpredictable demand from consumers. If a retailer does not keep pace with the current advances and thoroughly understand his trade, Edwin Paff suggests, "You can get stuck with a lot of inventory that you don't need." Other problems are those faced by many sellers. For instance, how to keep track of units moving through the store. Without the aid of a computer, all inventory is done by eye, and if strict care is not taken, products fail to be ordered until supplies run out. The owners see it as a difficult business to computerize because of the many small parts that are sold.

Regulation in terms of a Federal excise tax is more of a bother than anything else. The tax is paid on all accessories that go on the bows or arrows and must be computed from past invoices every couple of months. Clothing, backpacking gear, and other hunting items sold which are not related to shooting are immune from the tax.

The unwarranted opposition some gun stores face from their local community never happened to Arrow Manufacturing. When asked if there were any negative feelings from any of the citizens in the area, Edwin Paff responded, "Not at all. None whatsoever. And we did get support, otherwise we wouldn't still be here."

Another item that sells well for the Paffs--and is a perfect addition to their arrow manufacturing enterprise--is darts. In fact, the store offers five hundred different styles of competition darts. While some of the darts they carry are made in the United States, most accessories come from England.

As well as for advertising their company's products, Arrow Manufacturing finds that the Yellow Pages is its best way of communicating to prospective customers in the print media.

According to Edwin Paff, the manager, "The problem with advertising and archery is the difficulty in reaching a narrow range of people." Most new customers hear about the store from positive comments from friends who purchase there. To give you an idea of how far word of mouth can travel, a couple from Sweden stopped by one day after an acquaintance told them about a good place to find archery supplies.

PHOTO : Exterior shot of Arrow Manufacturing, Inc., a company which specializes in wood, fiberglass, and aluminum arrows and accessories.

PHOTO : Dana and Lillian Paff, with their son, Edwin, who is now manager of the Arrow Manufacturing operations.

PHOTO : Interior shot, showing diversity of archery equipment Arrow Mfg., Inc. carries. Besides some of the crossbows they carry, note the various darts that are available.

PHOTO : Another interior shot of Arrow Mfg., clearly showing all of the arrows which are available.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Browne, Michael
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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