The owners of the Erie Sport Store are speaking out for the first time about the decision to close their doors for good.
Jackie Roberts spoke to members of the family that started the nearly 70-year operation.
In the age of online shopping and big-box stores, the owners of Erie Sport Store say they were forced to make a tough decision. Now, they’re getting ready to say goodbye to a community staple and a family tradition.
The shop on Keystone Drive in Erie comes with a long history. The store opened for business back in 1951, but 67 years later, it’s filled with liquidation signs.
Rich Weber, the president of the company and son of one of the founders, tells us the decision to close was a difficult one. “I started working when I was a freshman in high school so it’s been a part of my life and my brother’s forever.”
But, the Webers describe the last three years as a downward spiral, VP Jack Weber saying, “I’ll miss doing this stuff because I met a hell of a lot of nice people along the way. Yeah, I’m gonna miss it but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do and we weren’t doing too well the last few years.”
Executives within the family corporation say for years they had almost no competition, but that all changed when online shopping became a leader in the retail business. Jack tells us, “The young generation, they’re not your window shoppers anymore. They’re buying stuff online so that’s probably the biggest part of it.”
The reality of the situation weighs heavily on longtime shoppers like Elizabeth Dunham. “It’s disappointing to know that a family business like this, where you can come in and they know who you are, is going out of business and then you just go somewhere else and they’re not there.”
But, the owners aren’t bitter; they’re packing up with a message to their customers. Jack says simply, “Thank you for the great years.”
Rich says more than 1,000 people have worked at the store over the years. And, he says, they anticipate the close-out sale will last a few months and they’ll still be offering their services as usual in the meantime.