The tiny items are lined up neatly on mini-clothes hangers: A turquoise snowsuit and a ballerina-pink parka with twinkly purple stars, both sized for 18-months, and a pair of black MacGear shorts with nifty net side pockets, as well as a flesh-colored leotard, both child’s size 6.
Welcome to the world of the Flagstaff Sports Exchange on West Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff’s premier location for the recycling of gently-used sporting clothing and equipment at reasonable prices.
The Sports Exchange website touts the benefits of recycling sports item as a way to pursue one’s passion on a budget, lower the carbon footprint and promote community synergy.
Opened in June 2009, the business is owned by Kathryn (Katy) Peterson, who
is originally from Louisville, Ky. After a 28-year career as a clinical social worker and two years as a Vista volunteer in Flagstaff, she moved to Austin, Texas for graduate school.
“One day I was sitting on the freeway a little too long in Austin and realized I missed public land [and thought,] I’m going back to Flagstaff,” she said.
Back in Flagstaff in 1994, Peterson carried around a list of small business ideas for the Flagstaff area.
“I wanted to do a small business in Flagstaff. I thought, ‘What is recession-friendly? What’s a niche that’s not being filled? What’s green? It’s got to be Flagstaffish,’” she recalled. “My friend made an off-hand comment about spending $400 for her kids’ team sports, so I hit the ground running. I started in my garage. I went to estate sales, moving sales, garage sales and found there was outdoor gear falling out of every garage in town.”
After months of selling goods out of the parking lot at the two Flagstaff Athletic Club locations, Peterson was able to secure the lease on the old 2,500-square-foot Odegaard Sewing Center building next to the Orpheum Theatre.
When the business was young, she thought growing families and the team sports business would be her target market, but it did not turn out that way.
“It really has turned out to be about 20 percent; the team sport business is a small but steady part,” she explained. “The other 60 percent are people 20 to 40 – campers and hikers and tourists needing high-performance clothing, trekking poles, camping gear, hiking boots and rock climbing gear. And the whole seasonal thing, too; we’ve become quite the snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing business when the snow is falling.”
The remaining 20 percent are people like Peterson who are actually older than the average outdoors person and interested in good deals on quality outdoor products.
Married for 12 years to Tim Peterson, a retired bankruptcy lawyer, Peterson has one stepdaughter, Chanti, 29, and two daughters, Lulu, 33, and Josie, 19.
Peterson says she is not particularly athletic. “I’m not a world-class cyclist,” she noted. “I have never been a competitive athlete. I’ve just always had a connection with nature, hiking and camping.”
The Petersons have a yurt in Hawaii that they visit several times a year, she said.
“I like to garden naked in the jungle,” she said, laughing.
There are a number of options for customers at Sports Exchange. “Gear walks through the door,” Peterson said. “People can get store trade credit for it, or, if it has a resale value of at least $50, they can chose to consign it. We have gear for hockey, skiing, lacrosse, baseball, soccer, golfing, fitness, fishing, sledding and lots of attire for running.”
It has been a busy summer at the business. “The business is steady,” she said. “More tourists are finding us via the Internet. They come here because it’s pleasant. A family from the UK emailed me to set aside an inventory of gear so that their family could go camping for five days in the Grand Canyon. They gave me the sizes they wanted in clothes, and stoves, backpacks, so they can travel light.”
Peterson has been a member of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce since 2009 and is also on the board of Flagstaff Independent Business Alliance (FIBA).
Some recent good news for Peterson and her Sports Exchange is the Dollars for Dreams microloan the business just received through Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI), some of which will be used to purchase two new Pedego E-bikes to be used as showroom demos.
“We’ve been here for five years and three months now, and we’re going strong and are ready to take the business to the next level,” she said. “We are so grateful that the Flagstaff community has embraced the Flagstaff Sports Exchange and shown us so much support.”
The Flagstaff Sports Exchange is located at 19 W. Aspen Ave. downtown. Visit the website at www.flagstaffusedsports.com or call the store at 928 213-3404. FBN
By Betsey Bruner
Longtime journalist Betsey Bruner is a writer and commercial photographer at her Words & Images freelance business downtown.
Flagstaff Business News