Santa Rosa – Press Democrat

An upstart sporting goods retailer opened its doors Wednesday at the Santa Rosa Marketplace in the same location where the Sports Authority store closed its doors a year ago.

Sports Basement, a San Francisco chain with seven other Bay Area stores, will employ about 30 people at the shopping center along Santa Rosa Avenue, said manager Dave Wark. It’s the company’s first North Bay location.

The store is the sporting goods equivalent of a Marshall’s or a Ross, offering discounts as high as 30 percent off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. It also has a robust rental business for snow sports, camping and bicycles.

A major difference between Sports Basement and others in the area — such as REI, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Dick’s Sporting Goods and locally based Santa Rosa Ski and Sports — is its community involvement, Wark said.

Its stores feature “hangout areas” with old couches that can be used as space for club meetings or to host potlucks or other events. The company has a shop where it makes all of its signs and fixtures for use in its stores. It also has a revenue-sharing program that allows 10 percent of the store’s profits to go to local schools.

“It’s our connection to the community. I think that’s what allowed us to really grow,” Wark said.

The retail sector overall is struggling as consumers flock more and more to digital purchases.

For example, the U.S. sportswear market had retail sales growth of 40 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm. However, the online sportswear market grew at a 159 percent during the same time period.

Despite a competitive marketplace, Wark said there is a need for another sporting goods store in the North Bay. He previously worked at Dick’s and saw tremendous demand for athletic gear during baseball season earlier this year.

“We were inundated,” he said. “Folks are looking for better options to shop.”

Bill Swindell