SEMINOLE — After 43 years in the Seminole community, Allen Sports Center, 6585 Seminole Blvd., will close the retail portion of its business.
The store will remain open “as long as we have merchandise on the shelves,” said Don Bates, who founded Allen Sports.
The company, which expanded over the decades to offer team and school uniform sales and screen printing, embroidery and lettering on these uniforms and other clothing items, has been bought by Dallas-based BSN Sports.
BSN, which has about 950 employees and did around $1 billion in sales last year, has been interested in buying Allen Sports Center for years, said Bates.
“But I wasn’t interested,” he said. “For a long time, we were one of the top 25 sporting goods dealers in the country, and I just wasn’t interested. But I’ve known the guys at BSN for a long time.”
As the retail market continues to change, now seemed like “the right time” to let BSN take over, he added.
“Retail has changed totally,” he said. “We’ve been here for 43 years and retail has changed so much. At one time, we were 90 percent retail and now we’re down to like 10 percent.”
With the retail shop closing, BSN will take over Allen Sports Center’s team sales division.
Bates now works for BSN with a new title, branch manager. Of the 29 employees who worked for him, 26 will continue to work with him at BSN (the remaining three employees chose not to make the transition to the new company, he said).
So, while the change is “bittersweet to a degree,” through BSN, he said that he and his team “have more financial resources than we’ve ever had.”
Allen Sports Decoration, the division of Allen Sports Center that does all the screen printing, embroidery and lettering, will continue to operate as a separate business working in tandem with BSN. They’ll provide these services for BSN’s high school, college and professional team sales and also will handle any other business that comes in from the community – “work shirts, bars, all sorts of things,” Bates said. Allen Sports Decoration will be run by his daughter, Kim Young, he added.
Bates opened Allen Sports Center in 1975 with his father-in-law, Sam Allen.
Sam moved to Seminole from Maryland nearly a decade earlier in 1967 to run Allen R. Shuffleboard, which was founded by his snowbird father, R.K. Allen, in the 1940s. His daughter, Kathy, graduated from Seminole High School in 1970 and went on to attend Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga.
This is where she met Bates, a basketball player and sports enthusiast. When the couple graduated in 1974, they moved to Fort Lauderdale for one year, where they both taught.
It was a short-lived move, though. Within a year, his father-in-law decided to open a family-run sporting goods store and he and Kathy returned to Seminole to help. They called it the Allen Sports Center, pulling the shuffleboard business into the fold.
The shop was tiny when it first opened, Bates said, just 575 square feet.
“There were not a lot of new businesses opening at the time,” he said.
But there weren’t any sporting goods stores in the area and the business struck a chord with the Seminole area community, he said.
By the early 1980s, Allen R. Shuffleboard, owned and operated by his brother-in-law Jim Allen, separated from Allen Sports Center. Not long after that, Bates bought out the company from the remainder of the family.
“But we kept the name Allen because back then the phonebook meant something,” he said.
Allen Sports Center added new services as it grew, including team sales, which has brought in the most business in recent years, and the screen printing, embroidery and lettering.
From a 575-square-foot shop, the company grew to nearly 20,000 square feet in three buildings. Bates is uncertain what they’ll do with all that space. The BSN branch and Allen Sports Decoration will both move into one building. As for the remaining two buildings, they’ll likely be sold or leased to another business.
Though Allen Sports Decoration will remain in place to work with the community and he’ll still work with local teams through BSN. Bates said what he’ll miss the most is “the interaction with the everyday customer, because that will go away.”
He added, “You know, I’ll miss that kid that comes in and puts his new cleats on, runs up and down the street, and tells me how fast he is now. That’s what I’ll miss. But we thank the Seminole community for the years of shopping at our store.”