PEACHTREE CORNERS -- Every now and again, Kim Stevens likes to stop by the Norcross Gun Club and Range for a little target practice. Aiming her weapon of choice, a Ruger .22 semi-automatic pistol, provides a nice distraction from the stresses of everyday life.
"It's a good giggle," said the Fulton County woman, who spent a recent afternoon plinking inside one of a dozen indoor lanes. "What I like most is that women can come here and feel really comfortable. You've got several women working here. It makes for an inviting environment."
That's the idea, said owners and sisters Robyn Marzullo and Cara Workman. Their female-centric business model has proven successful in the past. A location they opened two years ago in Sandy Springs did so well that they decided to open another at 5305 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. in Gwinnett County.
Having been in business locally for about two months now, the sisters said their prediction about the people of western Gwinnett County was correct. "We suspected there was a need in this area," Marzullo said.
Workman nodded, finishing her sister's thought: "We decided based on our success in Sandy Springs this was a great chance to bring our brand into this market."
Their brand embraces the idea that the gun industry is changing.
"One thing we've learned over the last several years is that there are a lot of women out there who want to learn to shoot," Marzullo said. "The numbers have just skyrocketed with women wanting to learn how to shoot or who want to just be able to carry a weapon. In this day and age, women have become more independent, so it's a natural step."
What makes their business model successful, Marzullo said, is that they try to make the gun range an inviting place for both genders.
"When a woman walks through the door ... we try to get rid of as much of that intimidation as we can," she said. "We know that when you walk in the door you're going to see guns hanging on the wall, and you're going to hear the shots from the range, and that's intimidating."
Added Marzullo: "But with our customer service and the atmosphere we provide, it's going to hopefully draw those women in. When they walk inside, we want them to realize that no question is stupid, we're here to help and teach them and guide them through the process of using a gun correctly."
Manager and Instructor Arlene Mison helps female customers every day, many of whom have never so much as picked up a firearm.
"The industry predominantly has been men, but we try to make this an atmosphere where everybody is welcome, especially women," Mison said.
Workman said the aha moment for the business began as a realization about their own lack of gun knowledge.
"We have no history with guns," Workman said. "We didn't grow up with them at all. I realized that if I was ever put in a position where I needed to shoot a gun to protect myself, it would be shame on me for not knowing. There weren't many places I visited that were very inviting for a woman to shoot ... and one thing led to another."
The sisters bought the range in Peachtree Corners earlier this year after American Classic Marksman closed its doors.
Workman said the first step was renovating the interior, "which was stuck in the '80s."
"We came in and did an extensive overhaul," she said, adding that they spent more than $700,000 transforming the 7,000-square-foot facility.
Marzullo said she hopes the new atmosphere and novel take on the old business model will make an impression on local women.
To see the expression on Stevens' face as she squints down the lane, squeezing the trigger of her favorite pistol, you just know it will.
Norcross Gun Club and Range is located at 5305 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross. For more information, call 770 449-6200.