We here at Sport Seasons just celebrated our 25th Anniversary of our original store’s opening. Much has changed, but a few things remain the same from the early days. We’re still locally owned, still catering to our local audience, and still growing.
One of the folks who has been around here for a good while is our administrator in chief, Joy. Recently, I asked her about the changes she’s seen in the company. Her responses were great!
Dan: You’ve been at Sport Seasons since it’s early days, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the products SS has carried?
Joy: In the very beginning, our product mix was much different. We carried free weights, workout equipment, and tennis rackets. We even had a machine to string tennis rackets, but we didn’t keep it long enough for me to learn how to use it. Nike was one of the first lines we carried, but we started out as a tennis specialty account. Lots and lots of Agassi and Bollettieri stuff. It was incredible; I wish I had kept a few of my favorites from those lines. It was 1988, and we had this awesome line of 88 Olympic t-shirts.
It didn’t take long to listen to our customers and change our product line. The equipment went out, and we started carrying a more diverse line of footwear and workout apparel, and started to carry team gear. It was the beginning of what Sport Seasons is today.
Dan: Nashville is an expanding and growing metro area. With more stores around to serve the areas, what did we do back then to serve our customers better with more inventory?
Joy: We opened our second store in 1990, and right from the start we established customer transfers. We had a Mazda van, actually I think at one point we had two. We’d run merchandise back and forth between our stores any time a customer needed us to. I’ve always loved this about Sport Seasons – we’ve been offering this service for 25 years, with no plans to ever stop.
Dan: 1994 was an important year, highlighted by expanding to Knoxville. (And added a second store in 1996). How important has having a second base of operations and a second city to draw from been to the success of SS?
Joy: The Beam family that owns Sport Seasons is from Knoxville, so it was natural for us to expand to Knoxville. I think it was important for them to be in Knoxville. Not just because it’s a great city, and of course you have the University of Tennessee and such a great fan base, but because of the importance of supporting your home town as a local business owner. Our stores create jobs, and we get to give back to the local community.
Dan: The internet sales are the next frontier, and have come a long way since the 90s. Being a local business that caters to its clientele locally, how has the site been able to take steps forward?
Joy: Things are constantly changing in e-commerce. We tend to be a little old-school and were slower to adapt than most, but we are really enjoying being online now. While it’s allowed us to expand our business, even more importantly it’s allowed us to better serve our local customers. Something really special is when get a thank you or email note from a Nashville or Knoxville native that’s been transplanted across the country telling us how wonderful it is to be able to place an order through us online. It’s just incredibly meaningful to us.
Dan: The company received a shot in the arm in the late 1990s with two professional sports teams moving to the Nashville area. How much did the addition of the Titans and Predators influence the direction of the store?
Joy: Wow, yes, it’s hard to believe that when Sport Seasons opened, we didn’t have the Nashville Predators or the Tennessee Titans. We certainly responded to our customer base and carry as much as we can to fill the needs and desires of the fans. Both teams are a terrific addition to our city, and we love to be able to support them.
Dan: What does the future hold for Sport Seasons? Anything you can share with us?
Joy: Twenty five years is a long time to be in business. There have been many changes in our product mix, our staff, our customer base, you name it. It’s been a tough economy for a small, locally owned business to thrive in. There is a great deal of competition from big box stores. We’ve had to really watch expenses and payroll just like every other small business.
One thing that we are focusing strongly on right now is getting back to even better customer service. Our customers are our focus, and with all of the challenges we’ve faced during the recent years, we’ve lost just a little bit of that focus. Our customers are why we are here, we are so thankful for them and we are determined to provide the best service we possibly can.
Dan: It’s been 25 years, and we’re still here. What advice would you give other locally owned businesses in growing metro areas?
Joy: Hire good people and create great relationships. We have employees on staff that have been with us for 10, 15, 20 and 25 years. These are the people that support you when you don’t even realize they are doing it. They understand the mission, they know the history and how hard we’ve worked to get where we are.
And be ready for change. Everything changes. It’s a different world than it was 25 years ago, and back then we couldn’t imagine where we are now.
Dan: Lastly, what’s your favorite product from when you first started here, and do we still carry it?
Joy: I admit, back in the day I loved the Nike Air Max, blue and white. Those were awesome shoes. I love that Nike brought them back as part of their retro line. Reminds me how old I’ve gotten, but I still love it.