Anita Adam is frustrated.
“We’ve been told we’re not an essential business…but business is essential for us,” she says.
Like many small retailers caught between safety and the need to generate revenue, Anita and Chuck Adam are fighting the COVID-19 battle on two fronts. They need to adhere to all health-related guidelines and stay virus-free themselves, but they also need to generate income through their business.
The couple has operated 2nd Time Sports, a true mom-and-pop sporting goods retailer, since the Christmas season of 2012, believing they could offer consumers a less expensive and more customer-friendly alternative to big-box sporting goods retailers. They began by selling used sporting goods equipment, and also by purchasing back equipment from people looking to sell things like skis and golf clubs. It was a leap of faith to start the business back then, and it's required a heap of faith to keep things going…especially now.
While those selling products like alcohol, marijuana and guns have been given the green light to keep doing business in the state, sporting goods...well, not so much. And the Adams are hurting because of it.
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Their business had been doing well enough that the Adams signed on to put 2nd Time Sport in a brand-new space at 11295 Washington Street that also houses a series of basketball courts, which seemed like a perfect fit. While the move happened at the end of March, the grand reopening set for March 28 did not. By then, the business had been deemed "non-essential," and the Northglenn offices that needed to sign off on any new permit had closed, anyway.
And the government programs designed to help small businesses during the spread of coronavirus? They’ve provided no help.
“We tried very diligently to get on the PPP,” Anita laments. “It just kept on saying [the application] was just for sole proprietorships at that time. So they only opened it up to owners that are two or more — which we fall into — last week. That was Tuesday when it came online, and we did our application right away...but because we are co-owners, they took all my applications and information, then they sent an email to Chuck. We completed that application right away…and then they it said it wasn’t available any longer.
“Since we didn’t get any funding, we’re going to be using all the credit that we can…but if we use all of our credit, they could take our house away," says Anita. "We had to have that talk: Do we save our house, or do we save our business? We may be faced with that. And that’s scary.”
At the outset of the shutdown, they were far more optimistic. “If I were a larger retailer…their burn rate has to be huge," said Chuck in mid-March. "A guy like me…can I hunker down? I own my own inventory. We don’t have a big nut to cover. If I have to go into survival mode, I think we can do that…go back to like we were in the first years, where we’re making very little money…but we’ll make it. We live on the personal relationships we have with our customers. That won’t go away. As a matter of fact, it may become stronger.”
“We’re going to make it through this,” Anita added flatly at the time. “It’s going to be tough. Be we’ve gone through tough before. This may be a little tougher time than some of the others, but this is just another tough.”
They based their belief on their successful track record in the north metro area, where they'd won a “Small Business Retailer of the Year” award from the City of Northglenn in 2017.
But none of that matters with sports shut down, from the big leagues down to the little leagues.
“Whereas we were optimistic before, because we knew we had enough credit, now we are having to make hard choices,” Anita says. The first hard choice was to buck the system and open the new space, now that 2nd Time Sports has the required certificate of occupancy, selling merchandise using their website for orders and offering curbside pick-up service.
'“We’re going to do it whether we’re allowed to or not,” she says. “They can sue us if they want to, but we’re not waiting. As far as we’re concerned, we will follow all the guidelines and we’ll deliver out into the parking lot...but we can't wait. We just can't...."
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And besides, if liquor and cannabis stores can be open, why not sporting-goods stores? "Give me a break," Anita adds. "I think people getting out and having some exercise is just as important.”
If they can survive the shutdown, Chuck thinks they'll have a good chance in the new retail landscape, offering many new and custom items for teams and leagues at lower prices than do their behemoth competitors. The slightly used merchandise is obviously a big selling point, too, especially among families with multiple kids participating in multiple sports.
The next hard choice might be pivoting the business. "The possibility of us moving in a different direction and moving maybe more to used, or have more people trade in," he suggests. "And I become that kind of source because now I don’t have to spend a lot of money until I see things pick back up. When it does pick back up, obviously I think we get a nice bump because now I’ve got people coming to me who may have never come to me before.”
Optimism is essential.