Paint ball fans get 'pro shop' in Pasadena Two partners open Alternative Sports to compete with big stores


For years, Lori McComas and "Gonzo" had nowhere to go to buy paint ball supplies -- until they opened their own store.

"We got very irritated with companies like the Sports Authority and Kmart," said Gonzo, 36, who identifies himself only by his nickname. "They didn't want to carry paint ball equipment because the big stores say the market isn't there. They say they're not going to be able to turn the merchandise around for a bazillion dollars."

Now, the two Brooklyn Park residents, who are not related, sell paint ball equipment and other sport supplies at their store, Alternative Sports: The Paint Ball Pro Shop, at 7751 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. in Pasadena.

Paint ball is a game in which teams shoot paint-filled pellets at each other with the aim of capturing the other team's flag.

The partners' first store opened four years ago in Brooklyn Park. They closed it in June and moved to Pasadena, which they call a better location.

The new store's bright pink banner started turning heads when the store opened four months ago. Most of the merchandise relates to paint ball. More than 40 paint ball guns crowd one wall; safety masks and backpacks hang on another.

Four glass cases house gun parts, paint ammunition and holsters. In a back room, Gonzo customizes paint ball guns. He taught the sport for a year at Back River Neck Recreation in Middle River.

Though 90 percent of the store's business comes from paint ball, Gonzo and Ms. McComas also stock in-line skate accessories, snowboards and skateboards.

Golf discs, heavier than Frisbees, are a new addition. Players try to toss discs into chain metal baskets 5 feet above the ground.

Ms. McComas, who has been playing paint ball for six years, said she and Gonzo also found mail order companies unsatisfactory to fill their paint ball needs.

"We got tired of dealing with getting the wrong equipment or JTC waiting for them to send it to me," she said. "That's when we decided to open a store of our own."

The partners sponsor a paint-ball team that has placed in national tournaments and lease a 100-acre tract off Marley Neck Road to stage paint ball battles.

The fans of paint ball aren't limited to hunters and gun enthusiasts who relish the idea of shooting each other with paint guns. About 15 Baskin-Robbins executives showed up two weeks ago.

"They were a phenomenal group," Gonzo said. "They were aggressive. They didn't sit there. It's amazing to see an ice-cream pusher attack people."

The golf disc game also has gained interest in Maryland, which has seven golf disc courses. One is at Kinder Park off Jumpers Hole Road in Pasadena, said Gonzo. The store sponsors a professional golf disc player, Joe Gustafson of Pasadena.

Customers say the Pasadena shop satisfies their needs better than some of the area's larger sports stores.

"The bigger chains sell some paint ball stuff, but none of them have the selection of guns that this store has," said Mark Battenfeld, 34, a machinist from Glen Burnie who was exchanging a broken paint ball gun for a new one. "The quality of guns aren't there either."

As any good merchant would do, Gonzo is willing to order equipment not on his shelves.

"If a guy came in here and said 'I want TiddlyWinks,' I'd get him 'TiddlyWinks,' " Gonzo said. " We understand what it's like to be proud of your sport and not have any stores sell what you need."

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