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December 11, 2023

Launched with a 2-ounce paintball accessory, growing Cheshire manufacturer buys a new $1.3M HQ

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER New Designz co-owners Antonin “Tony” Blazek (left) and David F. Dziob inside their Cheshire manufacturing shop.
HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER New Designz co-owners David F. Dziob (left) and Antonin Blazek outside their newly purchased headquarters in Cheshire.

When Antonin “Tony” Blazek needed a performance-enhancing accessory for his paintball gun but didn’t want to pay $40, he asked a close friend who managed a Waterbury machine shop if he could make one.

David F. Dziob grabbed a foot-long stainless steel bar, set up a CNC machine and within 20 minutes, carved out a working “volumizer.” The roughly 3-inch-long, 2-ounce piece helps paintball guns perform at lower pressures.

“I asked: ‘While we have the machine set up, do you think these would sell on eBay,’” Dziob recalled.

At the start, Dziob made three extra “volumizers” and Blazek put them up for sale on eBay for $20, half of the retail cost at the time.

“We sold them like that,” Dziob said, snapping his fingers. “In one day, they were pretty much gone. We made a bunch more, sold a bunch more, which led to the next paintball product, which led to the next.”

In October, about 23 years after making that initial volumizer, Dziob and Blazek paid $1.3 million for a Cheshire industrial building, where they will headquarter what’s become a multimillion-dollar CNC manufacturing business born out of mutual hobbies and their strongly rooted friendship.

The early years

It was a side gig that became a business venture for Blazek in 2002, after his employer at the time closed its Cheshire manufacturing site and shipped operations overseas. His IT job went to New York.

Blazek and Dziob began selling multiple accessories to paintball shops. They started with a $250 order, then began receiving requests for thousands of dollars’ worth of product.

The partners also packed Dziob’s Ford Expedition SUV with products and display cases, consistently selling out at paintball events up and down the East Coast.

They began making products at the small manufacturing shop Dziob was managing — D&L Tool, quickly becoming one of the Waterbury company’s largest customers. In 2004, Dziob quit his job to focus on New Designz, the company name the partners settled on.

After spending tens of thousands of dollars on equipment, including three CNC milling machines, the partners in 2005 leased a 3,800-square-foot space in Cheshire.

By that time, New Designz produced several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of paintball accessories a year. The company also made its first hire, someone to help assemble and package the goods.

“It was a very unique industry where most of the options out there were plain — no color variations, no anything,” said the 52-year-old Dziob. “We had offered the uniqueness to be able to change colors, customize your firearm and improve its air efficiency and accuracy. So, our products quickly took off.”

Diversification play

New Designz was up to nine employees by the time the Great Recession hit in 2008. As discretionary spending dried up, orders slowed.

New Designz quickly whittled down to a three-person operation again, including its owners.

Three hundred paintball suppliers worldwide that bought from New Designz closed their doors, said Blazek, now 55.

The company survived by branching out — designing brake levers, engraved master cylinder covers and other customized aftermarket products for snowmobiles, as well as chrome radio knobs, custom speaker covers and other accessories for automobiles.

“The reason why we are called New Designz is because we are adaptable, we can come up with new designs,” Dziob said. “It helped us through those rougher times.”

New Designz also began making accessories for firearms, which account for the vast majority of sales today. Blazek said the company’s gross revenues are in the “millions of dollars.”

“It was the same concept we used for paintball, where everything was plain and the same, and we wanted to add a little flare to the firearms market,” Dziob said. “It led us to where we are today.”

With little competition in the market, New Designz was able to hire staff back and expand. Today, the company employs 20 people.

It operates out of leased space in two side-by-side buildings in Cheshire, and 10,700 square feet of storage space leased in Wallingford.

New Designz also occasionally takes on jobs providing parts for aerospace and other industries.

A perfect fit

Dziob and Blazek said they long sought to own a company headquarters. The pair bought 3 acres in Plainville with plans to build there before the 2008 crash.

However, after the Great Recession, they sold the property to invest in a tackle supply company. Angling is one of Dziob’s passions.

He said the company did well initially but faltered amid the supply chain snarls created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even so, the partners continued a casual search for a new home for their manufacturing business. They eventually found the perfect fit, a 12,118-square-foot light industrial building at 30 Diana Court in Cheshire.

The 12,118-square-foot light industrial building at 30 Diana Court will give the company, which makes craft aluminum parts for various industries, room to grow.

They purchased the property this fall from Miodrag and Dajana Delmic, owners of Cheshire-based online guns and ammunition retailer Target Sports USA.

The Delmics bought the building in 2020, when the New Designz partners first eyed the property, for $1.1 million. They decided to sell a few years later amid high construction costs that sidelined a planned property expansion, Blazek said.

Blazek said the purchase was financed through Dime Bank and regional small business lender Community Investment Corp. Another bank had been lined up previously, but backed out when New Designz showed a loss for the first time in 2022.

Blazek said the red ink was a result of investment the company was making to grow the business. It added six new marketing and e-commerce employees to expand sales and launched a new website last year.

Dziob and Blazek said they plan to move office and warehouse functions into the Diana Court building by the end of this year.

Manufacturing will transfer entirely to the new site by May.

New building, greater growth potential

The new headquarters leaves New Designz with room to grow. It will also allow the owners to bring more production in-house.

Dziob and Blazek plan to use about 500 square feet to open a small retail shop offering laser-engraving for knives, keychains and bourbon glasses, along with custom accessories for automobiles and firearms.

There’s also an option to expand the building in the future, if they need the space.

“This is just to get our feet wet and see where it goes,” Blazek said. “It’s going to allow our company to have a face in the community.”

Blazek and Dziob plan to expand the network of dealers they supply in the coming two years.

At present, about 90% of sales are online, through the company website and digital retail platforms like eBay. A dealer network will give their products greater exposure in brick-and-mortar stores, the owners said.

“At the end of it all, you are expanding your product line throughout the United States for people who haven’t found you yet on the internet,” Dziob said. “This just opens the door for someone to walk into that mom-and-pop shop and say: ‘Wow, these are really nice products.’”

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