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Thursday, June 2, 2011 05:23 am

Local merchants wary of sports superstore

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Rich Moscardelli, who has worked at Ace Bicycle Shop on and off since the age of 13, says all sports retailers are worried about the effect the new store will have on sales.
PHOTO BY HOLLY DILLEMUTH

Local athletic stores are gearing up for competition from a sports superstore set to open on South MacArthur Boulevard next month.

Scheels Outfitters, located at Legacy Pointe Town Center, will open its doors June 25.

The store is one-third hunting and fishing, one-third athletics and one-third shoes and clothing, says Kevin Lambley, store leader at Scheels. The outfitter also boasts a children’s play area, gift shop, aquarium, a 35-foot mountain, Ferris wheel, airplane and a full-service cafeteria with homemade sandwiches, pastries, coffee and fudge.

While Rich Moscardelli, a manager at Ace Bicycle Shop on MacArthur Boulevard, can’t offer these amenities, he says he and his employees can offer firsthand experience with the products they sell. The 29-year-old will be watching for a change in his sales numbers in the months to come.  

“There’s no way that they can’t have an effect,” says Moscardelli, 29. “I’m sure every sporting goods retailer is worrying about what kind of impact they’re going to have.”

When asked whether Scheels would affect his small business, Todd Mitchell says, “Oh yeah, where do I begin?”

Mitchell bought R&M Cyclery three years ago and now has six part-time and three full-time employees. He says Scheels would be lucky to have some of them, and the company does. Mitchell says he lost his store manager to Scheels because of higher pay, which he understands. But Mitchell is most concerned that Scheels will sell Trek bicycles, a big selling point for his store.

Mitchell says Trek normally doesn’t sell to mass merchants like Scheels, but they will carry the line of bicycles. He hopes that the atmosphere of the store and customer service will keep customers coming to his shop on West Washington Street.    

“This is a real bike shop. We haven’t moved to a more commerce-oriented part of town.

“People love to be loyal to bike shops,” says Mitchell, who is confident in his regular customer base.

“I would rather spend money here than get cheap parts,” says Eddy Haber of Springfield. He has been coming to R&M Cyclery, Inc., since 1977, and says he won’t be shopping at Scheels when it opens.

On a May 25 “hard hat” tour of the store for reporters, Scheels management said it is sincere about investing in the community, and aspects of central Illinois are advertised throughout the store. Employee training and meeting rooms are named for Abraham Lincoln, the University of Illinois mascot, the Illini and Sangamon County. Other simulations like the shooting gallery in the store showcase Lake Springfield and the Sangamon River.    

“I’ve been asked a lot of times, ‘Are you coming here to start the store and then move out?’” says Lambley. “Not true. I bought a house in Rochester, we’re ready to go.”

Lambley came from Lincoln, Neb., to lead the central Illinois store and says it will do its part to give back to the community. Management has visited Rotary clubs in Springfield to find out how to relate to the Springfield community.

“We don’t have a single store that’s a cookie-cutter like the previous ones,” says Jason Loney, vice president of store development. “So everything we do, from product selection to the displays, are all geared towards the local market.”

When asked if Scheels received a tax credit or incentive for coming to Illinois, Lambley said, “We don’t share any of that information.”

William McCarty, director of the office of budget and management, is unaware if the store received a tax incentive but says that Legacy Pointe Town Center, where Scheels is located, is within a special business district. That means an extra 1 percent sales and hotel and motel tax on top of the city sales tax is returned to the Lincoln Land Development Co., the developer for the area, according to McCarty.

“I do think it’s going to be the regional draw that it’s purported to be,” says McCarty. He believes Scheels will increase property tax revenue in the area but sees a potential drawback for locally owned and other stores.

“I do believe to some extent that some of the other stores are going to feel the effect,” he says. “I think a lot of folks local may decide, well I’ve just got to go get a baseball mitt, and I’m not going somewhere to ride a Ferris wheel or bowl or do a golf simulator or something else, then I’m going to go to the store that’s close to me.”

Contact Holly Dillemuth at hdillemuth@illinoistimes.com.

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