“Shoot me! Shoot me! I’ll catch it in my mouth.”
When Burnaby resident Jeff Davidson picks up the crossbow he invented about two years ago, he encounters that reaction more often than you’d think.
Sure it shoots marshmallows, but it still surprises him – especially since the people telling him to shoot them are usually grown-ups.
“There are so many big kids around,” he said with a laugh.
The Burnaby craftsman is hoping to translate that youthful enthusiasm into a market for his high-end, handcrafted toy.
“I’ve worked harder at this than anything in my life,” he told the Burnaby NOW.
Davidson, whose work in the home reno business has been in the doldrums for a few years, stumbled into his new business venture about two years ago while Youtubing bandsaw projects.
He came across an American woodworker selling plans for a miniature, marshmallow-shooting crossbow and decided to design his own.
The result – a sleek weapon with a Douglas fir stock, a walnut trigger and aluminum fixtures – launches a standard-size marshmallow about 60 feet.
At point-blank range, the projectile hits its target with a satisfying smack.
And, since Davidson recommends dusting fresh marshmallows with cornstarch to prevent them from gumming up the weapon, they can even be launched with a dramatic puff.
“There’s lots of cuteness about this thing,” Davidson said.
That cuteness seems to appeal to just about everyone.
“I had a couple buy one for their elderly father to give him something fun to do,” Davidson said. “I can barely walk up the street with one without someone buying it right out of my hands.”
Despite his product’s broad appeal, however, it was hard getting the business side of things off the ground.
“I’m terrible at marketing myself,” Davidson said.
That has meant employing some creative selling strategies in times of need.
“I was super broke one day,” Davidson said. “I had eight bucks in my pocket and I thought, ‘I’m going to take a couple (crossbows) and sit down on a hoity-toity patio, spend my eight bucks on a beer; and I bet one will sell.’ I didn’t sit down for more than a minute and this couple was all over them.”
So far Davidson is a one-man operation, building his crossbows in a rented Burnaby garage.
His weapons retail for $79 and can be taken apart easily, thanks to a thumbscrew and steel insert that holds the bow assembly to the stock.
They’re available on Davidson’s website, mmxvancouver.com, and at 12 stores from Yarrow to Comox, including Litchfield, a high-end concept store in Gastown, and Boorman Archery in New Westminster.
“I went to the B.C. Rod and Gun show in Cloverdale a couple weeks back,” Davidson said. “It was a hit. I sold tons.”
For Ron Boorman, owner of Boorman Archery, there’s no doubt Davidson’s on to something.
“I just thought it was a great idea,” Boorman told the NOW. “You can have a lot of fun with it. I know it’s going to be a good seller.”