If Keith Price of New Iberia had a dollar for every arrow he fletched during his career in the archery business, he’d be a millionaire.
“Oh, yeah, a million. We used to average at least 40 dozen arrows a day when we were making arrows (at Cajun Archery in the late 1980s),” Price said last week, adding he’s fletched countless more arrows as the Blue’s Archery owner since 1995.
Of course, that isn’t the way it works. Still, Price is proud of his work with bows, crossbows, sights, arrows, bowstrings, fletching, etc., for a little more than a quarter century, and fondly looks back as he announces his pending retirement within the next few months.
His fondest memory?
“It’s just the good friends I made, to be honest with you. It was a pretty good run. I didn’t get rich by any means,” he said, matter-of-factly.
However, the rewards were many each and every workday. The people he met meant the most to the outdoorsmen who grew the business into the region’s most respected small businesses catering to the outdoors.
“The 21 years here,” Price said, pausing as he looked around Cajun Guns & Tackle on the 700 block of East Admiral Doyle Drive, home, for now, of Blue’s Archery, “have been good. I made a lot of good friends and met a lot of good customers, a lot of good customers who turned into good friends.”
Store won’t be the same
The back section of Cajun Guns & Tackle won’t be the same, according to owner Ricky McGuffie, who said, “I’m still going to have my business as long as I can keep it. I’ve got to try to figure out what I’m going to do with the space in the back, you know?
“I really enjoy working with Keith. For 20 years, we haven’t had a cross word. He’s very considerate and I really enjoyed having him here. He’s a tremendous help.”
Price’s archery customers ranged far and wide, from Morgan City to Opelousas and Lake Charles to near New Orleans. He shared his expertise with bows and arrows with all he met.
He was no stranger to bowhunting before making archery his livelihood.
“I started bowhunting in the late ’70s, I guess. I just got into it on my own. My dad never did it. Really, the first archery I ever did was bowfishing,” he said, noting he bowfished a lot. “It grew into other things — target shooting, bowhunting for deer. I never hunted with a rifle until I was around around 30.”
He is the youngest of five children born to the late Espy Price Sr. and the late Isabelle Bouton Price. His siblings are Patricia Moore, Espy Price Jr., Earl Price and Byron Price.
The boys were involved in the outdoors.
“Growing up all the brothers were, my sisters weren’t. We’re all still hunters, we’re all still hunting (at least) a little bit. My oldest brother (Espy, who lives in eastern Texas) just sent me photos last week of him and his buddy with a limit of ducks,” he said.
Price remains passionate about fishing and hunting. He doesn’t favor one over the other but agrees seasons dictate the sport that warrants more attention.
“I really enjoy both of them immensely. (But) I’m not near as mad at the fish as I used to be, and I’m not near as mad at the deer as I used to be. I just love to be outdoors,” he said.
Price had a circuitous route of employment leading to Blue’s Archery. He worked at Wilson Supply, first as a truck driver, then as office manager, before joining a Shreveport-based timber company, a job in which he traveled northern Louisiana and eastern Texas.
He also married Lee Ellen Istre on Aug. 8, 1981. They have two daughters, Cassie Edwards, 38, of New Iberia, and Rebecca Hill, 32, of Broussard, and four grandchildren.
Price family accomplished archers
They all eventually got into archery target shooting.
After showing a visitor two boxfuls of plaques and trophies — including state titles won by the family — the 62-year-old outdoorsman laughed and said, “Our two girls and Lee Ellen were both better shooters. I was the worst shooter in the family.”
Lee Ellen, an educator for 40 years at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, recently retired as assistant dean of science at ULL.
Price started his career in the archery business in 1988 when he began working at the highly popular Cajun Archery on Darnall Road in rural Iberia Parish. Mike O’Brien, who recently retired as an outboard motor mechanic and owner of Bayouland Marine LLC in St. Martinville, joined him at the thriving business owned by Billy Armentor and Bobby Armentor.
He learned from two masters of the trade, the Armentor brothers.
“I worked in the machine shop where I made fishing points (for bowfishing arrows) and ran the retail section selling bows and stuff,” he said.
It became a full-time job.
Blue’s Archery was born in March 1995 while co-founders Price and O’Brien were working mostly on the retail side at Cajun Archery. The Armentors wanted to focus on manufacturing, shipping and distribution of archery equipment for their nationally known business, Price said.
Five years later, Price decided to move Blue’s Archery to Cajun Guns & Tackle, owned at the time by Shannon Pecot and within the next few months by McGuffie. It was quite a move involving volunteer help transferring equipment, machinery and a huge counter with a glass front from Cajun Archery to its new home on Admiral Doyle Drive.
“I said, ‘I’ll find a place,’ and I did. It was a good move. I had 20 good years here. Ricky’s been very accommodating. I learned a lot about firearms from Ricky, for sure, a lot more than I knew before I came here.
McGuffie, 55, said he appreciates everything Price brought to Cajun Guns & Tackle. He wished him well in retirement.
‘Hate to see him go’
“I think he deserves to retire. I hate to see him go … We’ve been working together since around 2000,” he said. “We’ve always had a good relationship. He’s always helped me out, which enabled me to go hunting or somewhere. He took care of my business the same way he would his.
“He’s good with customers. He’s definitely knowledgeable about bows but he was able to take care of my customers because he’s good with people.”
Price and McGuffie had to adjust to economic rollercoasters, especially after the oil field industry downturn in 2014.
“The last five years have been tough on everybody. It is what it is,” McGuffie said.
“When the oil field went down in, what, ’14, there was a drastic change. Of course, the port (Port of Iberia) went to nothing, people lost jobs, weren’t spending money,” Price said.
“In all reality, a bow lasts forever, unless it breaks. It’s not a necessity. People don’t need to buy a bow every year (except, for example, to acquire new technology),” he said, noting archers do change bowstrings, buy new sights, arrows, etc. “You (as a business owner) change how you go about things — buy less and, hopefully, do more service work.”
He’s hoping to reduce his inventory, particularly high-end items, before closing the door to his shop.
“I don’t need a dozen bows. I don’t need a hundred dozen arrows,” he said.
The Alaska adventure Price took with Dr. Stephen Ritter of New Iberia, an emergency medicine specialist here, in September 2019 ranks as the highlight of his life as an outdoorsman. That wilderness excursion left a lasting impression on him.
Price and Ritter camped in a tent and rode in a raft for 10 days along a river approximately 300 miles northwest of Anchorage, enjoying the breathtaking view of Denali (also known as Mount McKinley, at 20,310 feet above sea level the highest mountain peak in North America) far, far away whenever weather conditions permitted.
They ate the fish, mostly sheefish, grayling, pike and the occasional salmon, they caught. Midway through the trip, two days after passing on a shot at a bull moose, Price killed his first-ever moose, which weighed an estimated 1,500 pounds, with a Ruger American .308 rifle at a distance of approximately 75 yards.
It was the busiest time in the archery business but he couldn’t pass up the trip. After retirement, time is on his side.