Setting sights on a new archery range after fire
By Shavonne Potts
CHINA GROVE — Sie Graham was going to give up the archery business after her twin sister Sonya died in a fire at S&S Graham Archery, the business they shared for 25 years.
But she found the courage to continue and will open Saturday at a temporary location along North Main Street, not far from the original store. She’s inviting former customers and new customers to celebrate from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. at 1620 North Main St., beside Grove Supply.
The grand opening is a way to remember Sonya. There will be hot dogs, barbecue and a drawing for the chance to win a crossbow. Sie said the building used to be a bingo parlor and most recently an auto body shop.
The archery business caught fire after a June explosion. Employees were in the middle of a taxidermy procedure when the natural gas heater’s pilot light ignited the chemical vapors.
Sonya was cut off by the fire and unable to escape the building.
Sie and other employees were able to make it out without serious injuries.
Sie admits she didn’t really want to continue.
“People told me, ‘If y’all don’t reopen I am giving up archery,’ ” she said.
One customer in particular, Scott Williams, was especially pivotal in helping Sie in her decision to remain open.
“I told Scott I didn’t know if I could do it without her,” Sie said.
She said Williams and other customers and friends stopped by her house and told her how they wished she’d reconsider.
“He really gave me the spirit to keep going,” Sie said.
The fear Sie felt about running the business without her sister left because of the support from customers, she said.
She believes God sent certain people into her life.
Some still send cards and other condolences to Sie and her mother, Jackie.
Sie was told of tributes in honor of her sister, one particular that brought her to tears.
Tony Eury Jr., crew chief for race car driver Danica Patrick, is a customer. He managed to pay tribute to Sonya with an inscription on Patrick’s car.
Other drivers have been customers throughout the years, including Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Sie admits when Earnhardt first called the store she had no idea who he was.
“She said some guy named Dale Earnhardt just called,” said friend, Mike Safrit.
Sie has gotten lots of help before the big reopening, including Safrit, who volunteered.
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Sie and Sonya had taken over the business from their father, Buddy Sie Graham. Throughout the years, the sisters won awards for top sales in the country before there was a Bass Pro Shop or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The two made it their goal to offer quality products to customers and simply make them feel at ease, like being at home.
“Me and her were like a team. She was my backbone,” Sie said.
Sie said her sister was the “spunkier” twin. Sonya was the tomboy willing to get dirty and learn taxidermy, while Sie is the self-professed “girly-girl.”
Sonya began taxidermy 12 years ago and it was Safrit who got her interested, Sie said.
Sie tried her hand at taxidermy but never found a love for it like her sister.
“My sister was very smart. She taught me a lot of stuff,” Sie said.
She said Sonya was a perfectionist and things had to be right to a “T.”
Sie hopes to rebuild within a year but said she is glad to get a building to use in the meantime. The temporary space will also feature an outdoor shooting range.
She hopes people attend to “help make the memory of Sonya Lee Graham a success,” Sie said.
Sie said people be able to see the new temporary location, get bows repaired onsite and hear lots of hunting stories.
The store carries lots of crossbows and other products from several brands, including Mathews, Hoyt, Mission and Parker.
For more information, contact S&S Graham Archery at 704-855-1300.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
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