The Archery Custom Shop has been located at 7240 Madison St. since 1948. Its founder, Don Schram, sold bows and equipment, while running two indoor ranges. He owned a coach house on Marengo that prominently features a totem pole.
Schram died in 1995 and the shop was “inherited” by Terry Pryor, who married Schram’s widow, Jean. Now, after 28 years, Pryor is retiring and selling the property. The shop, though, isn’t going quietly. An episode of Chicago Fire was filmed there and will air this evening, Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Pryor was 19 when he first came to Forest Park in 1971. He landed a job at National Blank Book, on Industrial Drive. He also started hanging out at the archery shop. He had had a fiberglass bow when he was growing up in Marshall, Illinois. He has never lost his love for the sport.
Pryor worked part-time in the archery shop, doing odds and ends for Schram. He also did a lot of shooting on the range. He advanced from a recurve bow to a compound bow. He joined the Chicago Bow Hunters, Inc. in Bolingbrook and competed in national tournaments. Pryor’s real gift, though, is teaching newcomers how to shoot an arrow.
The shop attracts many novice shooters, some as young as 8. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come there to shoot and they also host birthday parties. Pryor is good at teaching beginners but it has taken a toll on his shoulders.
The shop prospered for years. It sells compound bows that range in price from $500 to $2,500. They also stock recurve bows that cost $200 to $1,000. Besides the bows, the shop stocks everything a shooter needs including arm guards, arrows and cases. The shop makes most of its money selling equipment. “The range only pays the utility bills,” Pryor quipped.
The shop has two ranges, a small one downstairs and a large one upstairs that runs the length of the building. Many of the customers are police officers and firefighters, who have a passion for bow hunting. Several Forest Park cops are regulars. Seventy percent of his customers are target shooters and 30% are bow hunters.
Bow hunting is “up close and personal” compared to hunting with guns. Pryor hunts white tail deer in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His youngest son, Adam Pryor, also excelled at shooting and became a national champion. Adam served as a stand-in for actor Nicholas Cage, shooting an arrow in the film “The Weatherman.”
Another film, The Hunger Games gave the business a real shot in the arm. Pryor watched the film but found the violence distasteful. He also noted that the star, Jennifer Lawrence, was not demonstrating the proper shooting form.
Archery movies may have helped sales but nothing hurt the business more than the Internet. Customers found cheaper prices online but didn’t get the repairs and instruction they receive at the shop. Another blow to sales came during the pandemic lockdown. Even their regular customers stopped coming.
Last year, Pryor told his three sons he was shutting down the business. They agreed it was time. Pryor had suffered a heart attack in 2015, which forced him to reduce the shop’s hours from to 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. His sons don’t want the business and Pryor predicted, “There’s no way it will continue to be an archery shop.”
The Chicago Fire crew, however, was grateful to find it still in operation. In December 2022, a location manager named Fernando, told Pryor they were looking to film at an archery shop. Fernando took some photographs and the “director fell in love with the location.”
The day before the shoot, a crew came in to photograph the shop. Then they took everything out, furniture, banners and targets. They installed green carpeting and built a false wall. New banners and signs were brought in, including a sign identifying the business as “Chi-Town Archery.”
On the day of the shoot, Pryor arrived at 4:20 a.m. There were already two Forest Park police cars in place on Madison Street and they would remain for the rest of the shoot. The crew parked a trailer containing a generator and set up a food tent.
Pryor said the crew treated him like a king and he enjoyed delicious food and coffee from the tent. He described the filming as “organized chaos.” There were over 100 people in the shop, including some retired cops and firemen. They shot from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
After the shoot was finished, the crew used the photographs they’d taken to put everything back exactly the way it was. “You won’t know we were here,” one of the crew confided. Actually, Pryor will always know they were there, because they gave him the “Chi-Town Archery” sign as a memento.