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Sunday, August 24, 2008

25-year-old entrepreneur hits target as owner of business

Sean Norris started bar hopping at 19. But not for the beer.

He wanted to sling darts at a bull's-eye.

Norris, 25, now plays anytime he wants -- even at work. He recently purchased Edgeworks Knife and Supply Co. Inc., which carries dart supplies, knives, cookware and puzzles, from its former owner.

Taking over the shop is a natural fit for Norris, who grew up playing darts.

In fact, that's how his parents met.

"Our very first date on St. Patrick's Day in 1979 was at a dart tournament," said his father, Charlie Norris, a former bartender. He no longer plays after a football accident injured his wrists.

At 10, Sean Norris started playing darts around the house for fun, his parents said.

After walking into Edgeworks for supplies one day, Norris landed a part-time job helping customers and stocking shelves.

"He was so happy when he got that job," Charlie Norris said. "I don't think he's ever missed one day of work in all the years he's worked there."

Norris soon started playing darts in a local league and began reading more about knives.

"It wasn't very long before we figured out he had a real interest in what he did," said Bill Berry, who opened the shop in 1993 with his wife, Cathy.

Berry, who wanted to retire, began looking for a buyer to purchase the business.

"I would have hated to see the store just end, not only because it was kind of my legacy, but because so many people wouldn't know where to go for supplies," Berry said.

The owner gave Norris a chance, and let him run the shop for about five months, Berry said. Norris paid the bills, dealt with vendors and helped customers.

"That way he'd know if he really wanted to do this," Berry said. "If he didn't, that was the time to jump out."

Norris, who has worked at Edgeworks for seven years, bought the shop with the help of family members last month. The purchase price was not disclosed.

His mom, Janet Norris, loaned him some of the money.

"I had complete faith," she said. "He's young to start out in a business, but he has the energy and motivation to do it."

The economic downturn worried Norris some.

"I knew what I was getting into and knew the market," he said. "I knew how to budget the money accordingly."

Dart players, hunters and puzzle enthusiasts will keep the business strong, Norris said.

He has one employee and works about 75 hours a week at the shop. On a recent day, Norris, who has both ears pierced, wore jeans and a T-shirt that read "Failure is not an option."

Some are taking notice of his attitude and knowledge.

"What amazes me is everything he knows about knives," Charlie Norris said. "He knows all the companies, the history of the manufacturers. He's like an encyclopedia."

Most of the roughly 340 members in the Western Maryland Dart Association buy supplies from Edgeworks, said president Tony Paré.

"There's no place like it around for 200 miles in any direction," Paré said.

Customers come from Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland, Norris said.

Although some dart players buy products online, the experience isn't the same, Paré said.

"Sean lets you use the darts you're interested in buying," Paré said.

Customers often shoot darts on boards inside the store.

"Darts is all about comfort," Norris said. "You have to try the weights and grips to see what you like the most."

The new business owner still finds time to play.

"I like it because it's nothing really competitive for me," Norris said. "I'm just going out every Wednesday with a bunch of my friends, having a couple drinks and having fun."

No major changes are planned at the store, Norris said.

Berry said he is happy Edgeworks is still open. He added the store's key to success is Norris' love of the products.

"Actually, I'm not sure if he likes the puzzles or not," Berry said.

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