Faces In The Crowd: Jim Belcher

November 29, 2018

By Aaron Michell

Jim Belcher makes bows.
As owner of Belcher Bows and Old Master Crafters, Jim, along with his partner Georgia Jeffrey, has been making traditional bows and supplying bow parts for companies and individuals all over the globe for the last ten years.
And since August, they’ve been doing so right here in our own backyard.
From the corner of Kirby Avenue and Stockwell Road just southeast of Marion, the pair has been working diligently to get their new shop up and running over the last few months, as they’re just now starting to settle into their new digs.
Jim, who was born and raised in Northern England, moved to the Sanford area some 32 years ago. His father, Jack, started Belcher Bows back in England in 1964, advising his son not to get into the bow making business along the way.
Fortunately for the rest of us, Jim didn’t take that advice.
Relocating their shop from the Brighton area, Jim, Georgia, and their two dogs Goose and Tank, couldn’t be more pleased with their new location. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, these two have felt right at home.
Recently, we stopped by their shop at 5065 Kirby to see what these two are about. We learned a lot about archery, the outdoors, and what bow making is all about. In the process, we learned that Jim and Georgia are more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.

Jim Belcher and Georgia Jeffrey.

Jim Belcher and Georgia Jeffrey.

Marion Press: What is Belcher Bows?
Jim: We manufacture traditional archery equipment; we do some work for other people too. Belcher Bows is really our custom line of bows. We also have Old Master Crafters here too, OMC – that’s our bow supply company. We supply parts to people too, if you want to make a bow.

MP: Are a lot of deer hunters using traditional bows? Or are these more for archery?
Jim: What we call traditional archery is really just old, traditional archery; compound is just modern archery. And then there’s the crossbows. The crossbows have came in and taken away the compound archers, and now the old style, the traditional bows are coming back on. There’s more and more people looking to use them. And as for hunting – archery is really archery. If you take your bow into the woods, then you become a hunter. But up to the point of that, you’re really just an archer, shooting in the field. And 99.9% of your archery stuff is not bow hunting. You probably only shoot two or three hours a year bow hunting, where you might shoot thousands and thousands of targets.
There’s a trend for younger people trying it. Not to bow hunt; not even thinking about bow hunting, but simpler times shooting a bow. It’s just real basic, simple fun in your back yard. Nobody cares. It’s not like shooting a .30-06 in your backyard. So, you can shoot these in your backyard, and everybody goes, ‘Oh, there’s that neighbor kid shooting his bow.’

MP: And you’re a supplier for some big companies too.
Jim: We supply Hoyt, the largest company in the world for traditional equipment. That’s one of the jobs that we’re doing today. We supply ash; we supply all the core bamboo wood for their recurve bows.

MP: And you make custom bows. How does that work?
Jim: You can come in and say, well, I want this bow but I’d rather the handle be green, and I really want brown on the outside. And I only need it to weigh this much, because I’m only going to target shoot with it – because if you want to deer hunt you need it to weigh 40 pounds or better.

MP: Do you hunt? How’s hunting season treated you so far?
Jim: I do, but I haven’t had much time. I just moved up here in August and I’ve been trying to get this thing together. We moved up here from Brighton in August.

MP: When did you get started making bows?
Jim: I’ve done this for the last ten years down in Brighton, but I’ve been messing with bows all my life – my dad was a bow maker in England. So I grew up with it as a kid. I’ve only lived here [in the U.S.] for 32 years. I’m from Northern England originally.

MP: And you moved to Michigan 32 years ago?
Jim: I lived in Sanford originally, then I ended up in the Detroit area.

MP: Where did your fascination with bows come from?
Jim: Here’s the story my dad told me: He won me a little bow when I was about four years old at a local fair. And I shot it until it broke, and I was very upset – I was just a kid, you know. And he said that I wouldn’t shut up about it. So he went to work and built one out of a piece of plywood, and he said: ‘As soon as I gave it to you: boom, you shut up.’
So my dad started getting interested in archery. He couldn’t get the bows he wanted, so he did the research to start making them. He ended up with one of the top makers in the UK showing him how to build bows, and he started building bows in 1964. So Belcher Bows has been building bows since 1964.
My dad, Jack, always told me never to do it – never to get into making bows – but then ten years ago I decided to.

MP: And why did you choose to bring your company to Marion?
Jim: We started looking all over. We just wanted to get out of town. Brighton used to be more like Sanford at one stage in the game; it was close enough to a big city, but it was kind of rural. It’s a big city now. Everybody drives angry, and the cost of living just kept going up and up.
But once we came here, we were sold. There’s no traffic lights in Marion, it’s fantastic!
Georgia: And everybody’s friendly. Everybody smiles at you, and holds the door open for you.
Jim: Kids wave when they drive by.
Georgia: It’s just not like that in the big city. You’re more likely to get the middle-finger!
Jim: I walk in the bank, ‘Hey, Jim!’ They don’t have to look anything up; they already know who you are.

MP: Sounds like Marion’s treating you pretty well.
Jim: And it’s not just Marion, but McBain, Falmouth, any of these places everybody’s been great. Our stress level’s gone to almost zero. Which is what you’re hoping for, but you never expect it to be that good either. It’s great. Everybody we’ve bumped into has been great. The lumberyard has been great. Flemming’s has been great. Everything we need up here, we’ve decided we’re buying it local, so that’s what we do.

MP: How do you spend your free time? When you’re not in the shop what keeps you busy?
Jim: We shoot quite a bit. We like to camp; go out west. Bowfishing. In the summer we take as much time as we can give it – last summer we did nothing, but the summer before I can’t remember a weekend where we weren’t out on the boat shooting fish. We really like it out west; we try to get out west every year. We go up in the Rocky Mountains, under the guise of elk hunting, but it’s really just a camping trip. Sitting up on the top of the mountains, saying: ‘Wow, look at that view!’
We like to go up to the U.P. – we’ll go up to the falls and walk around; do some walking. I guess we really like to hike, more than I think – though I don’t really consider myself a hiker. We do hike a lot; I guess they’d call us hikers, but I don’t consider us hikers. We can walk eight to ten miles like nothing. But in the city, I think they’d call us hikers.

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