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Terry Pryor takes a very zen-like approach to archery. With a bow in hand, there’s just him, the arrow and the target. Nothing else.
“Put it this way,” said the 60-year-old archer who once shot in national competitions. “You could be having the worst day and you will forget everything that happened from total concentration on the bow. Total concentration.”
Pryor is the owner of Archery Custom Shop, a family run business in Forest Park since 1948. The narrow store tucked into 7240 W. Madison St. is a curious place to onlookers, filled with camouflage gear and tons of bows and arrows, not to mention a couple of deer heads mounted on the walls. The building extends far enough back to also house two 20-yard ranges where people of all skill levels come to either learn the sport through lessons or to practice and improve their game.
As a full-service shop that repairs broken or worn tackle on top of selling new equipment, Pryor said they have just reached their busiest time of the year. Hunting season in Illinois began Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 15. In fact, it’s the only time of the year that they make any money, he said.
“Some people come for fun, some for bowhunting, some for competitive sport,” Pryor said. “It ranges from learning how to shoot a bow to learning how to hunt with a bow.”
Pryor has been shooting arrows since he was 13 years old, growing up in Downstate Marshall, a small town about 200 miles south of Chicago. He came to the city when he was 19 looking for work, and after a couple of warehouse gigs, he took over the archery business in 1994. It’s currently the only shop close to Chicago that is strictly for archery. Some of his regular customers travel from as far as Rockford and Springfield. Others even come from Europe, including a couple of Swedish pilots who used to always stop by after their flights to Chicago.
Though the location may seem odd to some, given the city landscape, Madison Street wasn’t always so bustling. “This was the outskirts back in ’48,” said Pryor, who has been living in Forest Park on and off for 30 years. “It wasn’t the yuppiefied area that it is now.”
Another major change over the years is how the manufacturing of bows has developed. “It’s a little more than a stick and string these days,” Pryor said.
There are still recurves, the simple, more traditional bows. But there are also compound bows, which have been designed with all kinds of gadgets to make it easier to shoot. Some have a mechanical release, as one example, which allows archers to release the arrow by squeezing a trigger like a gun – the finger never even has to touch the string. These compound bows can launch an arrow into the air at 360 feet per second.
Despite the advancements, “when it all comes down to it, the physics is exactly the same as it was 100 years ago,” said Deno Andrews, 39, a customer at Archery Custom Shop.
Andrews, an executive at a consulting firm, has been coming to the shop once or twice a week on and off for 20 years.
“Even just thinking about it calms you because you know you have to be calm to shoot,” said Andrews, a former professional billiards player. “Even if you’re shaking just a millimeter, you’ll never hit the bullseye.”
Sometimes Andrews pops in the store after work on the way to his Oak Park home. But he also loves to visit on Saturdays to play with his 7-year-old daughter, Sophia, who has turned into quite the archer.
“He’s OK, but his daughter is the real star,” Pryor said.