Salida brings in big guns for profit

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

SALIDA, Colo. -- Paintball guns next to concentrators and walkers may not make the most sense, or even appeal to the same demographic, but for Salida Medical & Respiratory it has been a match made in retail heaven.
Salida Medical, a full service HME with an extensive showroom in Colorado, has been making more room for its booming paintball product line.
"Everyone comes in and says 'We don't understand why you have paintball if you are a medical store, and I joke that we are creating the injury in order to help fix it," said Salida's President Fred Jackson.
Salida started catering to the paintball craze though its industrial gas business. When the local Wal-Mart started selling paintball guns, enthusiasts started looking for a place to fill their gun's CO2 chambers that propel the paintballs. Salida bought the necessary tools and trained some employees how to fill them properly so they don't burst.
From there, things just took off, said Jackson.
"That paintballs that [Wal-Mart] was selling were blowing up in the guns and making them all gooey," he said. "So, we called around and found a much better quality paintball; and that started brining even more kids in."
Now Salida sells the guns, paintballs, protective gear, places special orders and even does gun repairs --services that bring more than 50 extra people into the store each week during the peak paintball season and plenty of extra retail dollars.
"The winter season is slower, but we have a ski area close by, so we are sure to stock a lot of crutches," said Jackson.
The paintball business grew out of Salida's 25-year-old industrial gas business, which Jackson said is also booming thanks to some company consolidations in his area. Salida said business come from a variety of areas, including welding, wineries and microbreweries, jewelry makers and glass blowers.
"The return on a cylinder of CO2 is very good, and the number of fills for that small paintball projection cartridge pretty high," said Jackson.
"For probably 15 years we have filled our own cylinders," he added. "It's a little more expensive to do it that way now, so this is another way to try and meet the times."

Even the employees are excited about the business, learning the ins and outs of the product so they can service them. Some have even sponsored paintball tournaments.
"It's a big activity and it's growing all over the country," said Jackson. "It's been an interesting little niche to get in to."