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Yuan Jie Wen, originally from Philadelphia, picked up a bow and arrows for the first time two years ago. Today, he runs the city’s only indoor shooting range in the neighborhood where he grew up.
“I just want people to have fun and learn,” said Wen, 31, who launched Callowhill Archery in late October. “It doesn’t matter if you hit the nail on the head [or] your arrows fly everywhere.
In the 1990s, Wen’s parents operated a tofu shop in the same building the archery now occupies, on 12th Street behind The Rail Park. His family lived in the apartment on the second floor.
“I think they’re very proud… that I’m running a business where they started,” Wen said of his parents. “It’s almost like passing a torch.”
Callowhill has changed a lot since he was a teenager, he said. He remembers the neighborhood battling drugs and crime before it experienced an influx of gentrification around 2010. Young professionals and artists moved in as development projects and trendy restaurants and bars began to flourish.
“There’s that sense of obligation,” Wen said, explaining his choice of location. “My house is here, I stand here and I want to do something to contribute to the neighborhood. “
He hopes to introduce the sport to Philadelphians who may never have shot archery before. Callowhill Archery is now the only indoor stand in town, according to Wen, as B&A Archery in the northeast recently closed. For Wen, there is a therapeutic element to archery, due to its solitary nature and its focus on self-improvement.
“Archery is about quality rather than quantity,” he said. “Every time you shoot that arrow back there’s a lot that has to go right. … Your form must be perfect. Your technique must be perfect. You have to keep your cool.
The range at 446 North 12th St. offers 90-minute sessions for $ 65 per person. There are up to eight slots available in any given session, and all equipment is included in the package – a bow, arrows, and arm guard.
Wen operates Callowhill Archery while working a day as a property manager. He runs classes alongside Ray Caba, state archery champion and National Field Archery Association master coach.
Caba, a 76-year-old Delaware County resident who worked for the Philadelphia Gas Plant for nearly 30 years, said he practiced archery and competed for the major part of his life.
“It’s just a relaxing sport,” Caba said. “At first it’s a little hard to get used to, because you’re actually using muscles in your back that you never thought you had.”
Caba’s charisma shines through as he leads the class sessions. He recently told a class that “he fainted at the sight of blood” to convey the importance of safety. He discusses the correct position, the correct handling of the bow and the very important anchor point.
The anchor point is the mark that a shooter pulls on the bowstring to meet it when he withdraws his arrow. Someone can use the corner of their mouth as an anchor or the corner of their eye.
“You have to be consistent in your anchor point,” Caba said. “If you have different styles, you’re not going to hit the bull’s-eye. “
The indoor stand is approximately 10 meters long from shooter to target, which is shorter than the standard of around 18 meters for indoor matches, but after learning the basics, each session ends with a friendly competition.
Dajanaye Rollins, 30, recently attended a session. She hasn’t toured for about a year due to the pandemic, she said, but was ready to resume her bow.
“I can definitely say that the way I shot over a year ago is different from the way I shoot now,” said Rollins, who used to study with Caba. The Brewerytown resident is thrilled to have a new range so close to downtown.
“It was really fun,” she said of her first session. “I’m quite an introvert so going out and talking to people I’ve never met before, doing something that I really really love, that was really fun for me.”
Rollins’ advice for newbies to the sport: “It’s great not to touch at all. “