So today marks the exact day 25 years ago of our first paintball game. Of course there was no Facebook back then - or even a phone capable of taking a photo, so photographic evidence is limited... But we do still have a photocopy (remember photocopiers!?!) of the first cheque we received into the business to secure the booking. 25 years later we look a lot different - we don't even run that paintball site anymore, (although it is still going - hi Point Blank!) - but it's from those humble beginnings that Just Paintball was founded.
I'm not going to bore you with a year by year account of the what's and how's of going from a paintball site in 1998 to one of the most longstanding retailers in the industry now in 2023, save to say there have been A LOT of ups and downs, changes, expansions, many different faces, good points, not so good points and everything in between. As a brief overview, if you're interested, the shop was launched when foot and mouth hit the country in the late 90s / early 2000s. Paintball sites across the country were closed down as many were based on farms and customers weren't allowed to visit. At this point we launched Just Paintball to serve the many hundreds of hobbyists looking for their own gear. We had a budget of about £500 back then (that bought quite a lot in 2000 I can assure you) and lined the walls of our tiny little shop with as much gear as we could for the money. There weren't so many brands back then either so we were mainly selling Smart Parts (remember them?), Angel (another archaic brand), JT and Eclipse (who were called Planet back then). From those small beginnings we grafted and put everything we made back into the shop until there was definitely more than £500 on the shelf! We also started going to trade stands and at one point - I think in probably 2004 - there was an event we went to every single weekend... and sometimes there were 2 events on the same weekend. They weren't always good events, they were often incredibly muddy events, but we certainly got up and down the country meeting players, selling our wares, and building the business you all now know and (hopefully) love.
We also did a lot of trade stands at the Millennium events over in Europe - back when there were probably more spectators and a good amount of buzzzzzzz. When I started writing this I was wondering how to detail the past 25 years and I just kept remembering notable events along the way and I think most of those are connected to our string of shoddy vehicles and European breakdowns! We got a bat in the radiator on the way to an event in Sweden. We had a broken gear linkage all the way to Germany and back and I (me!!) had to keep crawling under the front wheels to connect the gear stick to the other thing it connected to - it wasn't my speciality but I knew to connect the shiny ball thing to the equally shiny socket thing. It worked, for about 2 miles, and repeat till England! We also had a radiator "issue" - let's call it an "issue" - and was helped out by Tim and Trevor from HPAC (hi Trevor) who kindly obliged in "fixing it". The mechanics among you will doubtless know what they did to fix the radiator before we then decided to head to a Travel Lodge for the night as we were on night 2 of a 3 night event-marathon and we all decided we needed beds and sleep. Trevor falling out of his bed in the middle of the night and Tim giggling about it like a child didn't help on the sleep front !! 2004 we went to Toulouse, hottest place on Earth, and burnt to a crisp. Later that year - or the following year - or even the previous year, it all merges when you have events every weekend, we froze. I distinctly remember shaking with cold, standing in the snow, at Elsham, muddiest place on Earth, and practically freezing to death from the cold. All to supply paintball gear to the players exactly when they needed it. That's what we're all about - and have been for 25 years.
At one point we had 6 foreign speaking staff and sold all across Europe - Germany, France (hi Thibaut), Spain, Poland... and it was great, but frantically busy. We had a shop down South in Reading (bet you didn't know that) but when the internet really started to kick in and we started shipping orders to the unit next door to our shop... we decided to consolidate and return to having just one unit that would ship out across the world. Yep, we're that old. Just Paintball started before the internet. Before websites, smart phones, couriers!! Not quite couriers but certainly we were at the beginning of mailorder. We had countless websites and versions of websites, we've upgraded and relaunched as and when technology has dictated, and there are countless other things we did along the way - launched our own brand (hi Iain), launched a magazine (don't ask), went on paintball television (remember that?), attended one of the first North v Souths, the first Mayhem, the first CPPS event - yep, we were there standing in what was just a muddy cow field complete with cowpats ... and credit to Ainsley, Dylan and their crew for turning it into what it is today. We went to Ancaster with the hill, Elsham with the mud, Simply the Best (!!), the PA Cup (hi Gilly), events all over Europe!
From a small start we have grown and our commitment to the sport remains. The team here, fabulous as they are, have helped the business grow. Headed up by Andy (hi Andy.... he won't read this), who has been with us nearly as long as we've been here, we've had a fair set of characters answering our phones, packing boxes, working all hours, to help us become the company we are today. Other shops have come and gone, brands have come and gone, customers have come and gone... and sometimes come back again, because 25 years is a long time and we're proud to have been able to help hundreds of teams and thousands of players to create their paintball memories along the way.
So what next for Just Paintball? Another 25 years.... ha. Wait and see, we have big plans for 2024, please stay with us for the next chapter!
Enjoy some photos to look back on from over the years...
How it started...!
We were rocking up in our JP Trade Tent to some of the very first events held at CPPS, this picture was taken in 2014 of one of them!
Vs How it's going now!