Landmark sports store, Midtown Sports, must move down Main St. to make way for restaurant, 2nd floor apartments
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – After 30 years at the same location, Midtown Sports is moving.
Midtown Sports was informed last month that their lease at 117 E. Main St. would end on July 31, 2018. Chuck Steinman, majority owner of the independent sports equipment and apparel shop, said the family that had owned the building for the 30 years had sold it and then it was sold again to the new owners. Steinman said he was never contacted by the new owners and instead heard the news through a local realtor. Steinman posted a sign on the front door of the sports store letting customers know they will be moving to 917 E. Main St. in July because they had “lost their lease.”
“We didn’t have much choice,” Steinman said. “They sent a few guys recently to measure and get the landscape of the building but I have not talked to the [owners] personally, myself.”
Steinman said Midtown had never had a problem at its current location and were never given an opportunity to remain the tenant at its longtime home. Midtown lost its lease because the current owners want to do major renovations to create a mixed use residential project consisting of a new restaurant space on the ground floor and two apartments on the second floor. The project, which began site plan review last week, shows the apartment units at around 1,535 square feet each, with the remaining 5,000 square feet for the restaurant.
Midtown Sports has been a mainstay in the 100 block of East Main Street for nearly 30 years. Steinman, who began working at Midtown in 1976, said the store was originally located next to Colima’s Restaurant before it moved to the old Dick Parker Family Shoe Store location in the late 1980s.
“We’ve been here for 28 to 30 years,” Steinman said. “After being here for as long as we have, it’s going to be a huge task.”
Steinman said the move will be expensive for the company, not just in changing its address on all letterhead, marketing material, web sites and social media but also to modify the company to smaller footprint and to move industrial equipment. Silk screen dryer, screen printing and embroidery machines located on the second floor will be have to be taken out using a crane and then fork-lifted onto heavy duty trailers to make the 0.5-mile trip east down Main Street across from the Napa Auto Parts building. They will have to build new walls at the new location to separate the different departments of the business.
“This will be an interesting move,” he said. “We’ve been here a long time and I hope we can have a smooth transition.”
The move will also force Midtown to squeeze their current operation, which fills approximately 8,000 square feet across three floors, into its new home covering just 5,000 square feet on a ground floor. The tighter fit will force Midtown to re-evaluate all of its inventory for walk-in sales, which only account for about 12% of the store’s business. Steinman said he may also have to store some winter inventory off-site at his country home in Elderwood north of Woodlake.
“Take a look at all of our inventory items,” Steinman said. “If it’s relevant then we will carry it on, if it’s not then we’re going to drop it.”
He won’t be cutting back on letterman jackets, which account for about one-third of walk-in sales.
“Letterman jackets are very important to us,” he said. “We’ve got some ladies that do a tremendous job embroidering and sewing jackets and our staff is very good at helping people design what they want on their jackets.”
The good news for Midtown is that most of its business, 88%, is team and institutional business, such as schools, colleges, city leagues, Little League, Cal Ripken, AYSO, youth club teams and youth travel teams. Steinman said Midtown Sports provides equipment and apparel for more than 200 sport institutions between Madera and Bakersfield and the foothills to the Central Coast. The company will continue to offer full-service screen printing and embroidery and employ a full-time graphic designer.
“We will still be on Main Street and we will still be downtown,” Steinman said.
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