By Ron Leir
A local cabinetmaker aims to nail down a deal that he figures could be a real shot in the arm for the town.
Jonathan Giordano, president of West Hudson Lumber & Millwork on Arlington Ave., wants to create an indoor shooting range designed for the use, optimally, of private members, police and the general public.
And he’s already taken the first step to that goal by getting the Kearny Town Council, on June 12, to ratify a business development loan for $250,000 at 4% interest from the Kearny Enterprise Zone Development Corp. that the KEZDC board awarded May 31.
Town Administrator Michael Martello said that Giordano – whose project site is located in a redevelopment zone – is pitching a “state of the art facility with all the bells and whistles.”
Ultimately, Giordano would have to go before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for approvals, Martello said.
In the meantime, Giordano said he’s lining up potential investors to help finance the venture which he and his brother Mark Giordano, an attorney and financial consultant, and partner Russ Pastena of North Caldwell peg at $1.2 million to $1.4 million to assemble. About half of the cost would go for a ventilation system that would filter out impurities from spent lead bullets.
“Fewer than five companies build these ranges,” Mark observed. “We want a higher end range, with a lounge and a space where you could hold meetings. Hopefully, we’d draw a lot of law enforcement personnel to come in.”
“Two of the companies that we are considering for the construction of the range are Action Target in Provo, Utah, and Meggitt (Training Systems, headquartered in England),” Mark said.
Why a shooting range? For a growing number of recreation enthusiasts, Jonathan said, “guns are taking the place of golf. A lot of people just don’t want to spend several hours playing on a course.” He mentioned one area bank president he’s talked to as a possible investor who prefers firing at targets to swinging a club.
And the Giordanos themselves grew up with guns. Mark recalled how he and his brother “used to shoot .22 caliber rifles at the old range near the railroad tracks. My brother was (age) nine; I was eight. I remember, one year, we won the ‘turkey shoot’ contest.’’
The Giordanos said that the KEZDC loan would facilitate the repaving of most of the Arlington Ave. approach, off Schuyler Ave., to the project site, two currently vacant attached buildings at 70-80 Arlington Ave. comprising 24,000 square feet of space, previously rented by a beverage company that moved out in January.
The brothers’ goal is to reconfigure the space to accommodate a firing range, along with a “virtual reality” weapon training facility and a sales office featuring guns and hunters’ equipment including camouflage outfits and bows and arrows.
They’re planning to carve out 18,000 square feet for the range, members’ lounge and gun sales section and the balance for a “police and tactical” training facility.
While the primary purpose is to make the range available to a “members-only gun club,” said Jonathan Giordano, “we also want to support the Kearny Police Department and other police agencies like the FBI.” There may also be room for a fledgling Kearny High School rifle club to participate, he said.
For Kearny Police Chief John Dowie, having access to a town-based range would be ideal since currently, members of the department go to a range in North Arlington to do their state-mandated semi-annual weapon qualification tests under a contract between Kearny and North Arlington. It would be much more efficient for the officers to visit a local range to qualify and/or practice, the chief added.
“We’d definitely be interested,” Dowie said.
Before anyone would be accepted for club membership, “we’d get a background check so you know they have a permit to carry a weapon,” Jonathan said. “And we’d probably get several retired Kearny police officers to help staff the facility.”
Kearny’s Bill Fearon, who, according to Mark, “will likely be the head range officer and training director,” is on active duty with the New Jersey State Police. Fearon’s website describes him as a “20- plus year law enforcement professional” who “developed and implemented security action plans currently used by MetLife Stadium.”
Annual membership fees could run $400 to $450, Jonathan estimated. “We might rent them lockers and offer them concessions,” he said.
As part of the sales office, “maybe we’d have a gunsmith to customize weapons for our customers,” he added.
But it won’t happen overnight, the brother conceded.
“We’ve got a bunch of hurdles,” said Mark. Like getting sign-offs from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, federal Environmental Protection Agency and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, securing Kearny Planning Board sanctioning, hiring a contractor and lining up the rest of the financing needed.
If things go smoothly, Mark said the Planning Board could review a project application by this summer, and, if it granted approval, “we could build over the fall into the winter and maybe open in January 2013.”
The way Mark figures it, the project could be a big boon for Kearny because it “could draw a lot of new people into town who might consider Kearny a desirable place to live or business executives who might see it an opportunity for investment.”