Two decades ago, when Charlottesville business owner Paul Jones ran a shipping company near the University of Virginia, he heard from his part-time employees – mostly female students – that they had apprehensions about walking around town and across the UVA Grounds late at night.
After doing some research, Jones found a supplier of pepper spray and began to stock it in his store. Through word of mouth, pepper spray became a more popular product than any of the other items he sold in his store.
“I was selling thousands of pepper sprays,” he told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in a recent interview. “I was the only outlet in Charlottesville at the time.”
Starting The Belvedere Company
Fast-forward to 2014, when Jones was looking for a new enterprise he could pursue in retirement.
“I was looking to start a company that would deal mostly on-line but the big struggle was finding a product that I really liked, that I really believed in, and could use [myself],” he explained.
He looked at and dismissed “pills and lotions and potions for weight loss and virility and those types of things,” when he remembered “how I used to sell pepper spray, lots of pepper spray.”
That was when he considered non-lethal self-defense products and started The Belvedere Company, an on-line retailer that sells not only pepper sprays but burgler alarms, whistles, surveillance equipment, safes for storing valuables, and other self-protection items.
“That's what I want to sell,” Jones said. “It helps people. It makes people safe. Since I believe in it, it's easier for me to sell.”
These are the same products he uses himself and gives to his own children and stepchildren for their own self-protection.
Easy to use
“I like everybody to be safe,” he explained. “I can make money helping people to be safe. To me, it was a no-brainer.”
The non-lethal self-protection products The Belvedere Company sells are easy to use, Jones noted. “You don't have to be physically strong or fast or nimble, but you have to be willing to use it and you have to be alert and aware of your surroundings all the time.”
Even though he hopes to make a profit selling self-defense products, Jones cautions that “the number one way to defend yourself is to avoid problems. Don't go into a dangerous situation.”
The best way to stay safe, he says, is not “to put yourself into a position that's like walking down a dark alley at night in a strange city. There's no sense doing it if you can avoid it.”
However, he adds, “if you have to be out alone – and you can be in a safe place and still be attacked – the big thing is you have to have your weapon with you. If it's at home, it's not going to help you.”
For those who are wary of using something like pepper spray, which might blow back after being used against an attacker, Jones offers alternatives like whistles and alarms on The Belvedere Company's web site.
“We've got 'screech alarms,'” he pointed out, which “emit high-decibel sounds that sometimes scare away an attacker and other times just draw attention to you, which an attacker doesn't want. He doesn't want attention drawn to him if he's assaulting someone.”
In addition to self-defense products, Jones also sells instruction manuals, such as The Facts About Defense Sprays and How to Use Them to Bring Criminals to Their Knees, which he calls “a long title for a short book.”
That book, Jones said, “will give you the self-confidence to use any of our self-defense products, whether you are going to use a pepper spray or not.”
The Belvedere Company, which Jones calls a “one-stop shop for personal security products,” sells to customers in the Charlottesville area, elsewhere in Virginia, and – with a few minor exceptions – in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.