PORTLAND – A Portland gun store owner is planning a major expansion and is seeking approval to move from his current 1,000 square foot space, to a new, nearly 52,000 square foot “destination” – complete with a gun and archery store, firing ranges, axe throwing and a cafe.
Rob Pizzi, Jr., has run Central Connecticut Arms on State Route 66 in Portland since 2017, growing it into one of the top-selling gun stores in the state, and outgrowing the small store. He said he wants his new store proposed for the corner of Main Street and Route 17 in Portland to be a destination.
“There’s truly nothing like it,” Pizzi said. “It’s going to be drawing people from all over the state – all over the tri-state area.”
The Portland Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on Pizzi’s proposal at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21, over Zoom.
Pizzi told CT Examiner that his proposed new location would offer much more than his current store. He is planning to include an indoor shooting range and archery range – including five 40-foot archery lanes, which according to Pizzi would be unique in Connecticut, where most indoor archery ranges are just 20 feet. The facility would also include axe throwing, a cafe, and an archery pro shop.
According to Pizzi, many resident of Portland practice shooting outdoors because there isn’t an indoor range. It’s a situation that has caused some tensions with neighbors and a flurry of noise complaints, the Middletown Press recently reported.
“Hopefully it will give people a place to shoot besides their backyards, which is perfectly legal as long as they have the safety measures in place,” Pizzi said. “But it’s going to be a place where people are going to be able to shoot in a safe environment where more people are watching them and helping them learn.”
Pizzi, who said he only hunts with a bow, said he thought adding archery would be a significant bonus for the store given the number of archers in Connecticut, and just a handful of archery outfitters and ranges.
He said he hoped his business and the recently opened driving range across the street would make the corner a destination, given what he said was the significant overlap between golfing, shooting sports and archery.
“I think it’ll be a really good fit for that spot,” Pizzi said.
According to Pizzi, law enforcement employees make up a large portion of his business. Pizzi said he is the largest dealer in the state of Glock Blue Label products, made specifically for military and law enforcement. It’s a big part of why his sales are so high from such a small storefront, Pizzi said.
The proposed store would also include several training facilities for law enforcement, and for civilians – including virtual reality simulators and an airsoft course.
Pizzi said he chose Portland as the location for his store because market studies showed it would be a good place, and because the rural character of the town reminded him of growing up in North Branford, where he was an avid hunter.
“I just couldn’t be happier with the choice, it’s a great town,” Pizzi said. “I feel like I’m a part of the community.”