Who are you and what do you do at Fox Airsoft?
"My name is Matt Meraz and I'm one of the owners of Fox Airsoft. I got started in this as an airsoft player back in 1999 because I just loved airsoft, loved playing. We built a team and we started going to all these national operations and I wanted to have a store to supplement that here locally. So 2006 is when we started the airsoft business here, Fox Airsoft, and we've been growing ever since. I'm excited because we have a great opportunity to be able to build the market, to build the culture, and to build the entire player base and it's going to be fun as we keep going."
What was it like when you first started playing airsoft?
"So when I first started playing airsoft, it basically didn't exist in the United States. So I was playing paintball at the time, and I used to get a magazine that was called Action Pursuit Games. It would have articles, tactics, and new paintball guns coming out. It had a tiny ad in that magazine from a company called 747 Imports (now defunct). I had no clue who they were at the time but I saw some pictures that showed pictures of realistic looking guns. And you know as someone who is really into this and wanting to go for more realism it was super intriguing. So over time we started to explore their website and see what was going on. (To see) what was going on, what was airsoft? It was like I couldn't make sense of it because I (was used to) shooting big balls of paint at the time and a 6mm BB just didn't compute in my mindset. After a year or two of toying around with the idea, a bunch of buddies and I, we decided to order some of these things from overseas. And at that time, ordering things from overseas was very... it just wasn't done. It wasn't very common and it seemed a little sketchy and trying to convince my parents at the time to go dump a thousand dollars on toy guns to come over from overseas seemed frankly like a scam. But, eventually, they gave in and they let us do it and we got our first batch of guns. That was kind of how we took off. That was airsoft at that point. That was circa 1999, there were stores, no access to this anywhere in the United States and that's how we started off."
How did you actually start the business?
"Fox Airsoft? How it actually started? One of these days I'm going to write a book about this just because I think I did everything wrong that I possibly could have done wrong in starting a business. I remember a group of us from our team, and we'd airsoft every single Saturday of the year. Rain or shine or snow, we loved doing it and our tradition after we play was to go out to Carl's Jr. which is just down the street. There was 8 of us sitting around the table and we decided: Hey! Why don't we start an airsoft business? That was as much thought as I put into starting this business and from there we had of lessons to learn because we had zero knowledge going into it. We started off as pure hobbyists with enthusiasm and passion and zero knowledge on how to turn it into something that actually worked on a day to day business."
What's the best part about what you do here?
"I think the coolest part about what I do here at Fox is that it's like playing with a bunch of Legos and I get to build stuff every single day. I remember from our first shop that we had, just the idea of creating an airsoft retail store was super excited. You know, picking out the peg board and how we're going to lay everything out, and then over the years that has evolved into a much more mature professional looking shop and warehouse. And so I love solving new problems. So that's definitely where my talent is and I enjoy going after that stuff and continuing to build. I guess the thing is most exciting to me, is that as I build something, it just opens up more opportunity than what I thought excited. We've come a long way by doing that."
Where do you see the sport going?
"Airsoft I think has a lot of room to mature and grow in terms of making more accepted in the mainstream and having more venues to play at, more events, larger events. I think there is a ton of growth we can do with this. If we look at how far it's come over the last 15 years, it's come pretty far, right? It's come from being this back alley hobby that no one really knew about to where people actually recognize airsoft and see it in the big sporting good stores where the equipment is sold and there are more formal fields. So I see, I guess to answer that in a long way, I see airsoft growing in terms of there being more locations, more opportunities for places to play, to larger events. I think the best years are ahead of us and we're going to have a lot of fun as we build it."
Any life advice or parting wisdom to our customers?
"You know it's funny you should mention life advice, Tang, I don't know. I think I love giving advice even when people don't want to hear it. Maybe that's a character flaw that I can work on. But in terms of airsoft, if you guys are enjoying this right now and love what you're doing, just keep doing it, because you don't know what it's going to lead to. If I rewind time back to when I first got into this in 1999, I had no clue that I'd be over here running this national company and having a lot of fun with it and doing cool things. I never envisioned that, and a lot of that, getting there came from my passion, my drive -- it wasn't my knowledge. But with that, make sure you're willing to learn and adapt. If you take that posture and that mindset, then you can continue to improve and get better and better. That would be my advice to you as airsoft players. Keep getting out there and having fun, playing regularly and inviting your friends and let's make this something awesome that we can all enjoy."