Tucked away in a corner of the College Plaza shopping center on Fair Road is The Range, a store totally devoted to the sport of archery. Founded by archery enthusiasts Carl Greene and Tim Cooper, The Range has quickly become a "go to" spot for those in need of archery supplies, equipment service, or a place to practice.
The store has seven indoor shooting lanes allowing an archer to shoot distances of up to 30 yards. Both Greene and Cooper are certified archery coaches, and both have a passion for bringing the sport to youth in this area.
"I have been shooting since I was a toddler," said the 40-year-old Greene. "I have been a certified coach for the last seven years, and I am a United States archery regional coach. We now have a 4-H archery team here, and I serve as the Archery Club coach at Georgia Southern. It is one of the fastest growing sports in the country."
In working with Georgia 4-H, Cooper and Greene are part of Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education). Sports that fall under Project S.A.F.E. are archery, and the shooting of pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
"I realized how popular archery was becoming when I went to a 4-H statewide competition at Rock Eagle last spring," said Cooper, an experienced archer as well. "There were 462 young people competing from fifth graders to seniors in high school. I was told that that same competition drew just 200 competitors three years prior. That is how quickly the sport is growing here in Georgia."
Cooper said Greene put together a business plan focusing on the demographics of Bulloch County and the surrounding area. With the interest in bow hunting on the rise, as well as competition numbers increasing, both felt the timing was right to open a store dedicated to archery.
The former owner of a swimming pool company in Claxton, Greene works in the store on a full-time basis, while Cooper maintains his full-time position as a production manager with Duramatics in Glennville. Both can be found in The Range on nights and weekends.
The Georgia Southern archery club practices at The Range on Tuesday nights, and there is an open competition held there on Thursday nights.
"I don't know if we would have been able to have a club at Georgia Southern, if it weren't for Carl and Tim and the facility they have," said GSU senior Jake Jones. "We needed that support and coaching, and a place for teams to come and compete. We do have an outdoor area to practice at the RAC, but this facility is very important to us."
While there is an emphasis on shooting competitively, The Range also caters to bow hunters and the service of their equipment.
"You have to keep your bow fine tuned so as to be as accurate as possible," Greene said. "The last two weeks have been very, very busy for us, and it really fills a gap."
Greene said archery competitions draw to a close at the end of the summer with the onset of hunting season.
"This Saturday marks the beginning of bow season, so everyone's energy goes into hunting," he said. "Competitions will resume in January when hunting season draws to a close."
Jim Pruitte is a colleague of Greene's and was recently named Development Coach of the Year by the National Archery Association of the United States. The Harlem, Georgia resident said it is the work of coaches like Greene that keep the sport growing.
"Archery continues to grow and hold its own because of the grass roots movement at the club level," Pruitte said. "Sometimes working at the club and state levels can be a thankless job, but my wife and I and folks like Carl really love doing that. I know that Carl did a wonderful job when he was building the 4-H archery club in Evans County, and I am sure that he is doing a wonderful job with The Range, as well as Georgia Southern, and the 4-H club there."
Cooper said that he and Greene expect this year's local 4-H archery team to have approximately 25 members.
The Range is open Monday through Saturday. To learn more about The Range, you can visit their website at www.archeryattherange.com