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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

Team Sports a player in supplies game

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Jon Iwinski silk-screens the yellow onto University of Toledo GMAC Bowl T-shirts at Team Sports Inc. Jon Iwinski silk-screens the yellow onto University of Toledo GMAC Bowl T-shirts at Team Sports Inc.
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Team Sports Inc. s Springfield Township store sells an array of sporting goods.

But it takes a visit behind the showroom to the busy sales offices and stocked warehouse, as well as to the bustling embroidery and silk-screening shops in the building next door, to realize selling an occasional shirt or ball is just a small part of the $7.5 million business.

About 75 percent of Team Sports business involves supplying colleges and high schools from northwest Ohio, southeast Michigan, the Detroit area, and beyond with shoulder pads, basketballs, cleats, uniforms, and the like. Fifteen percent of the business is devoted to selling uniforms and other items to travel teams, while the remaining 10 percent is divided between retail store sales and corporate items, such as shirts with company logos, said Bob Eberly, president.

In December, Team Sports got the University of Toledo football team s jerseys and other clothing adorned with various 2005 GMAC Bowl logos in less than a week.

This is the kind of service we expect to be able to offer our customers, said Mr. Eberly, whose business was ranked last year as the 15th-largest team sporting goods dealer in the country. This is why we get the business.

UT is Team Sports biggest customer, and the quick turnaround for the bowl game is an example of the good service the firm provides, said Mike Renard, UT s athletic equipment manager.

Ken Kaczorowski, silk-screen manager at Team Sports Inc., checks for pinholes in a just-completed screen. Ken Kaczorowski, silk-screen manager at Team Sports Inc., checks for pinholes in a just-completed screen.
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I use them as much as I possibly can, Mr. Renard said. That s the kind of thing they re able to do for you.

Team Sports even silk-screened practice uniforms for the UT women s basketball team, which received them free from New Balance, Mr. Renard said. Other businesses may have refused to do the work because they didn t sell the uniforms, he said.

Founded in 1980 by Mr. Eberly and John Brennan, who retired in 1993, the company got its start after the two men lost their sales jobs with the now-defunct Athletic Supply Co. That firm had decided to get out of selling sports equipment to schools, presenting Mr. Eberly and Mr. Brennan with an established customer base for their business venture.

Besides being a distributor for Nike and other manufacturers, the local business is a member of Team Athletic Goods Inc., which started out as a buying group. Now the 48-dealer network based in the St. Louis area offers its own brand of clothing and equipment, and members assist each other with locating helmets or other needed stock, Mr. Eberly said.

Some aspects of the business Team Sports prefers to handle on its own.

It started doing silk-screening a dozen years ago, and embroidery services for varsity letters on jackets and designs on other apparel was added about five years ago, Mr. Eberly said. The business designs logos for customers, even ones conceived in crayon or on matchbooks, he said.

You d be amazed at what people give you, he said.

Since moving from Toledo to larger digs in Springfield Township in 1994, the Lucas County firm has expanded its building once, Mr. Eberly said. Enlarging the territory in which it sells and the popularity of travel teams have helped the business, he said.

Let s face it: Sports in general in our society is huge, he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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